Kesiah Bascom Introduces Waste Management Alternative to Greater Lowell
“When your soil is happy, your belly is happy.” That’s the motto of the grassroots waste management company OffBeet Compost. Founder and owner Kesiah Bascom, 31, started the Lowell-based organization in April 2017 to provide an environmentally conscious alternative to traditional waste facilities such as landfills and incinerators. For two years, OffBeet has been collecting waste from local households, restaurants and businesses of Greater Lowell, converting their food scraps into eco-friendly fertilizer for local farmers and landscapers.
Compost is a mix of organic waste, such as plants, paper and spoiled food, that is used to fertilize soil. This process introduces vital nutrients to the soil in a safe and environmentally friendly way. Bascom calls it “black gold” because of the valuable role it plays in stimulating healthy plant growth.
“If you support local food and agriculture, then it’s important that you support composting also,” Bascom says. “You want your food to be grown well so whatever you’re putting into your body is delicious and nutritious.”
Growing up in Sunapee, New Hampshire, Bascom witnessed the crucial role agriculture plays in communities; her father was a farmer, and she was always growing food on her own in high school and college. But it wasn’t until she began working for The Food Project, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that introduces farming skills to young adults, that Bascom realized she could make a career out urban agriculture.
“I had planned on going into adoption and foster care after college,” Bascom says, “but when I graduated [from Northeastern University] and began working for The Food Project, we were working with urban farming and I realized I could get paid for doing my favorite hobby.”
Now, Bascom drives her white Toyota pickup truck around Greater Lowell three times a week, picking up 5-gallon buckets of organic waste from the homes and businesses of clients. The collected waste is then brought to the company’s composting site in Haverhill, where the food scraps and organic material are converted into valuable fertilizer. Once produced, OffBeet sells the compost to local farmers and landscapers.
Clients who provide waste to OffBeet can choose from two service plans. They can either leave food scraps outside their home for pick up, using OffBeet’s 5-gallon buckets, or they can save some money and bring their material to one of the three designated drop-off points in Lowell. Either plan offers clients the opportunity to receive a free 5-gallon bucket of fresh compost twice a year upon request.
OffBeet Compost does more, however, than just produce and sell fertilizer. Bascom makes a strong effort to educate local communities about the importance of composting and urban agriculture. By holding workshops for aspiring gardeners, she aims to teach the ins and outs of backyard composting while also explaining the process’ vital role in reducing harm to the environment. This March, OffBeet attended the Environmental Youth Conference at Lowell High School and gave kids an opportunity for a hands-on experience with composting and gardening.
“OffBeet is a mission-based, community composting organization, so we try to conduct our business in a way where we’re engaging with the community,” Bascom says. “I don’t ever want to be the type of company that collects from people who only put their buckets out and don’t think about where their waste is going, which is happening now with trash and recycling.”
As of December 2018, OffBeet Compost had diverted more than 115 tons of food waste away from landfills and incinerators, and the company plans on moving much more in the future.