By John Krzyzaniak
John Krzyzaniak (left) and Coy McKinney (right), celebrating
SW Community Garden’s blue ribbon at the DC State Fair; Courtesy of Desiree Halpern

The SW Community Gardens at Lansburgh Park took home the blue ribbon for the District’s best compost at the DC State Fair on Sunday, September 8. Calling itself “Compost Against the Machine,” the team built on last year’s successful third place finish to claim this year’s top prize. 

Compost entries were scored on five criteria: composition, consistency, odor, appearance, and story. Unlike many of the other competitions at the fair like best pie, cake, or chili, for example, the judging did not involve a taste test.

The SW Community Garden has been operating and yielding heaps of fresh produce for six years under the leadership of married gardeners Coy and Pam McKinney. In November 2016, the garden joined the DC Parks and Recreation (DPR) Community Compost Cooperative Network. For the program, DPR installed three large critter-proof compost bins that sit just outside the garden’s fencing where trained co-op members can drop off their food scraps any time. 

Since then, co-op members have not only been contributing their food waste to the compost pile, they have also been tending to it on a weekly basis, turning and aerating it to encourage faster decomposition. After several months, the organic matter breaks down and becomes rich black soil that can be put to use in the garden—or, in this case, submitted to the DC State Fair.

Celebrating the garden’s recent accomplishment, farmer Coy said, “Nothing says neighborliness like working through other neighbors’ food waste! It’s great to see so many Southwesters who care about the environment.” 

For anyone interested in joining the garden’s compost cooperative, there’s still space. Currently about 70 co-op members participate but the bins have the capacity to support 100. Of course, the garden itself always welcomes newcomers! 

For more information about both the garden and the compost system, visit

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