Credit Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media
America's hugely productive food system is one of its success stories. The nation will export a projected $139.5 billion in agricultural products this fiscal year alone. It's an industry that supports "more than 1 million jobs," according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
But all that productivity has taken a toll on the environment, especially rivers and lakes: Agriculture is the nation's leading cause of impaired water quality, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If you stand in front of Almena and Sidney Poray's house in Baton Rouge, La., and look straight down the street, past the other houses and the shade trees, you see more than a dozen plumes of exhaust in various hues of gray and white.
"That's something you see every day, the same thing if not more," says Almena Poray. "Sometimes it's a darker gray; sometimes it's a black smoke coming out."
Any gardener will tell you that compost is "black gold," essential to cultivating vigorous, flavorful crops. But it always feels like there's never enough, and its weight and bulk make it tough stuff to cart around.
I belong to a community garden in Washington, D.C., that can't get its hands on enough compost. So you can imagine my delight when I learned that the U.S. Composting Council was connecting community gardeners with free material from local facilities through its Million Tomato Compost Campaign.