By Sue Styer, Master Gardener, University of Illinois Extension
Did you know that composting help is only a phone call or email away? As a Master Gardener for the University of Illinois Extension, volunteers like me love to answer your most vexing compost questions.
Who are Master Gardeners? We are horticultural volunteers of all ages who help our communities with service projects, educational programs, and answering the public’s gardening questions. We receive 60 hours of training in research-based horticulture, including composting. Some Master Gardeners even take an additional 20 hours of advanced training in composting to become Master Composters. I was excited to take this training two years ago and am now able to help set up composting programs at community gardens. Many Master Gardeners are avid composters and have hands-on practical experience about what works in Illinois (and more important, what never works!).
Besides providing Master Gardeners to answer your questions, the University of Illinois Extension offers other ways to help you with composting. If you are looking for information to learn more about composting, Illinois Extension has a composting resources webpage at https://extension.illinois.edu/global/composting-resources
Here are other opportunities to learn about composting from the University of Illinois Extension:
Speakers Bureau – Some County Extension offices can also provide speakers for programs on how to start composting, including worm composting (vermiculture). These speakers may be employed Horticultural Educators or volunteer Master Gardeners. We travel to libraries, schools, and garden clubs, for example, or may offer the program online or at the local Extension Office. A partial list is included below. It’s best to contact your individual extension office by phone or check their website to see what’s available and if there is a fee involved.
Some Speakers Bureau programs have Master Gardeners that go into the classroom to teach about composting. My county, Kane, for instance, has a classroom program for elementary and middle schoolers on worm composting. It’s so fun to hear the students squeal when they see a bin full of wriggling worms! Check with your local extension office to see this is available. The University of Illinois Extension also provides teacher resources and handouts for students on worm composting online at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/worms/
Free Material- The South and Southwest Suburban Cook County Extension Office has written a composting booklet that was created with the City of Chicago and Garfield Park Conservatory. It’s available here:
There is also a new Cook County Composting Initiative working group who will be promoting composting in this region.
Master Composter Training and Certification – Currently, only Will County will be offering Master Composter Training and Certification, April-May, 2021. It is local only. The training consists of 12 hours of classroom training with some hands-on activities and one field trip to a commercial composting facility. See https://extension.illinois.edu/gkw
Check out what the University of Illinois Extension has to offer you for your composting needs!