by Gianna Seminatore
This past week was my first time attending the USCC’s conference in Austin, TX, and hopefully it was not my last! I attended the 2021 conference virtually, which I now know was a very different experience than being there live.
The first day in Austin, Texas, I arrived at the convention center, walked under the arch, and got my badge. I had arrived at the event my boss raved about, my YP mentor encouraged me to attend, and teammates were excited to be back at.
I have been a part of the compost industry for a little over a year, and this experience felt like more than just a work conference. I knew I was an exhibitor; staffing the booth, ready to connect with composters, get the word out about CMA’s program, and attend relevant sessions. What I did not know to expect was the welcoming environment of the compost manufacturing industry. Attendees were down to earth, expressing genuine interest when they passed each booth, and wanting to learn what each booth exhibitor’s product or service was. I welcomed the support from compost manufacturers stopping by that I chatted with, and they were sure to let me know they appreciate what we do and asked how they could support us.
Though CMA is not a direct compost manufacturer, we are building a network to support compost manufacturers in an efficient way. Check out CMA’s growing compost manufacturing affiliates here. This conference also provided the opportunity to build a network of other folks vital to the industry, whether they’re selling equipment, helping with odor issues, manufacturing compostable products, or providing support with marketing compost- all had a great perspective, information, and mutual interest in supporting each other.
Having only been to a couple compost facilities a handful of times, I was in awe of the grand equipment. Shiny and polished to attract composters before the equipment is put to work. Honestly, the equipment looks much smaller at the compost facilities than inside a convention center. I was able to get the full experience and (safely) hopped up into one of the screening drums!
Connecting with people has been difficult the past two years. With most meetings and conferences being held online, it was thrilling to finally interact and network in person. I was content to listen to composters’ stories, how they got to where they are, and listen to any difficulties their facility might have. I even had the honor to interview Bob Yost of A1 Organics, an opportunity that would only arise at an event like this. He took the time to answer a few questions I had for him, hoping to spread compost knowledge.
I was inspired by the women in the industry I was able to meet, especially those in the community composting space. As a female new to this industry, it was exciting to see so many other women with the same values as myself. The women I met that have taken on leading composting for their community are inspiring. They saw a need in their area and jumped in to solve it. As they shared their stories, I came to understand why they had such a strong influence within their community. I met a woman who owns a sugar cane farm in Florida where they compost their organic waste to be sustainable. I met a pair of young women from Colorado working with compost tea. I met a woman from Detroit that started community composting at the start of the pandemic and is looking to expand. I am happy to call them friends now, and look forward to watching their influence grow and help out where I can. I believe community composters will be key as the compost industry grows.
I look forward to seeing what other folks took away from this conference, and how the industry grows. Maybe they picked up a new piece of equipment, learned a solution for a problem at their facility, or were inspired by a session. I know I left feeling energized knowing there are other folks locally and internationally working towards the same goal for compost and organic waste.