Centennial Farm seeks prize toward compost education program

COSTA MESA — The name Centennial Farm may not sound that familiar, but if you mention the big red barn at the Orange County Fairgrounds, locals immediately recognize the farm. Besides the Millennium Barn, the farm has fruit and vegetable gardens and livestock, which are open to the public.

This summer, locals have one more way to get involved with the farm. From Aug. 3 to Sept. 13, the Centennial Farm Foundation is competing to win a $20,000 prize from the Tom's of Maine "50 States for Good" initiative. The brand, known for its all-natural line of toothpastes, is recognizing five organizations that work to create "positive, lasting change to communities."

If the Costa Mesa nonprofit wins, the foundation plans to invest the money in a new program at the fairgrounds' farm called "Engrossed in Compost," which will teach the public the values of composting and do-it-yourself composting.

"It's all about environmental sustainability," said Joan Hamill, the fairgrounds' community relations director. "We want to be responsible with our waste and set an example."

The farm will use the waste that it generates — from byproducts such as tree clippings, paper towels, and animal waste — to produce and maintain 27 cubic feet of compost, or enough to spread nine yards through the farm every three weeks.

The farm has been trying its best to get the word out about the contest, which would put the new compost program into action.

"It's been serendipitous that it coincides with the fair," Hamill said.

Indeed, it is the time of the year when most Orange County residents make their yearly visit to the fairgrounds. Most people head to the farm to check out the animals, such as cows, pigs and goats, and the kids always try to pet a bunny or hold a baby chick. While visitors enjoy the farm's grounds, the employees are urging them to go home and vote for the Orange County educational attraction.

"When kids come through during their visits, we try to educate them and teach them how they might incorporate composting," she said.

Even if they don't win the $20,000 prize, Centennial Farm has its eye on the real prize: educating the public about composting.

"We are committed to this project," Hamill said. "It might take another shake. We might have to revisit our timeline or seek other funding opportunities … but it is a goal and it is something we intend to do."

Voting ends Sept. 10. For more information, visit http://www.50statesforgood.com. Tom's of Maine will announce the names of the five winning projects in October.

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