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Published on February 21st, 2009 | by John Chappell

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Urban Farmer Cited in L.A. for Illegal Composting





Compost

A small organic flower grower was cited in late December 2008 by the Los Angeles Local Enforcement Agency for composting violations.  Yes, you read that right, composting violations.

Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms in Los Angeles, California, was cited because of a law on the books that states that “composting material must be generated on-site unless it is placed in a vessel that controls airborne emissions”.  What this means is that legally you can only compost what you produce on your property unless your compost bin is a “commercially approved” device.

Kolla had established a relationship with a local restaurant to fill a garbage can she provided each week with their vegetable scraps, which she would then haul to her half acre urban farm and add to her own compost bin.  This is a perfect example of local food networks working as they should, operating in a closed loop, reducing carbon emissions by keeping everything local, and reducing the amount of waste sent to local landfills.  But the current letter of the law in Los Angeles states that if you take grass clippings, orange peels, or fallen fruit from a neighbor, you are in violation of the law and could be cited and fined.

A cease and desist order was issued to Kolla and Silver Lake Farms after a complaint was received by the Los Angeles Local Enforcement Agency.  The agency informed Kolla that she can only use composted material produced onsite, unless she uses a commercially approved compost bin, instead of the large wooden bins that she currently employs on her urban farm.

This event occurred several weeks ago, but is still newsworthy since it’s yet another example of local laws and bureaucracies interfering in what happens in your backyard and defying common sense.  Here’s the original LA Time s article in full length detail.  An official from the local waste management board stated that he’d like to see the law changed, but intending to change the law is still a long step from tangible changes.  Also, bear in mind that your city may have a similar law on the books and that your current composting activities may violate the law.

If this outrages, or even mildly upsets you, you should be aware of the other areas that the government is trying to intrude on the activity in your backyard.  Read here about efforts to track every backyard chicken in America with the USDA’s proposed NAIS.  And on a positive note about government interventions, read here about Maryland considering a ban controversial food dyes.

Image credit: panphage at Wikipedia under a Creative Commons License.

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About the Author

I'm 33, and a Southern Californian by birth and outlook, but recently relocated to the upper Midwest. You can label me an organic farmer trapped in an accountants brain and body, an enthusiastic yet novice urban homesteader, and a vocal supporter of all things organic, local, wholesome, and old-school.



  • http://www.brandofthefree.net Joe

    Wow that is just crazy. She seems to be going out of her way to do something good for herself and the commumity. Los Angeles, grow up please. In other organic news, try these super soft 100% organic tees, http://www.brandofthefree.net. They simply feel great and are perfect atire whether you’re composting or dealing with your heavy handed local govt.

  • http://www.IndoorAirAnswers.Com Linda Kincaid, MPH, CIH

    Santa Clara County cited me a few years ago for mulching with wood chips. They referred to my clean cedar chips as “a public health hazard” and “a threat to the environment”.

  • http://susanbarackman.freeservers.com/ esbee

    The meth maker in the same neighborhood sighs in relief that he will not have to breathe in the stinky compost pile….officials have figured out it is much easier to go after the innocent composters than to take chances with real criminals like drug dealers, child molesters, pornographers, mafia, gang bangers, those people know how to work they system and have ways of getting even. Your tax $ at work keeping you safe from mulch.

  • http://halfwayhomestead.blogspot.com Terri

    Why on earth would they word the law to restrict where you get your compostables from? To prevent people from creating huge (and possibly smelly) piles of compost? This makes no sense at all and is a real shame.

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