[this post was originally published at makezine.com]

This past weekend I went on a group bike tour of five compost sites in Western Queens, NY, in the neighborhoods of Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside. The sites were as diverse as the borough’s residents, ranging from barrels in community gardens to a one-acre rooftop farm. And the compost was as stinky and steamy as you would expect it to be!

The bike tour was organized by Stephanos, from the Western Queens Compost Initiative, which is part of the Two Coves Community Garden in Astoria. You may remember the Compost Initiative joined forces with the Compostess and the Queens Botanical Garden at last month’s World Maker Faire in NYC where they presented composting workshops, a worm petting zoo, and other hands-on projects.

We began our tour at the LIC Community Garden on 49 Avenue near Vernon Blvd. The operation here is quite small, so they only need two of these tumble-style barrels. The barrels were originally used for transporting and storing olives, and were donated by a local distributor.

You can see they built some custom bases out of 2x4s and used a type of metal dowel system to hold the barrels and allows them to turn the compost inside. There is a grate on the bottom which allows air in and keeps pests (rats!) out.

We proceeded to the nearby Sunnyside Farmers Market where kids got to see how worms assist in helping break down food waste for composting. This is also where the majority of their compost material is collected — approximately 550 lbs. per week!

The food waste from the market is transported to the nearby Brooklyn Grange (our next destination) via these trike bicycles that have been supplied by Worksman Cycles, America’s oldest bicycle manufacturer, who also had some fun and eclectic bikes at the World Maker Faire.

Named after the adjacent borough, but housed on the roof of a former auto parts supply building on Northern Boulevard, the Brooklyn Grange is a one-acre commercial rooftop farm that supplies area CSAs and grocers with produce. It’s a strange and wonderful experience, to be standing in the middle of a working farm, while surrounded with views of a city of nine million people! The farm has three working “heaps” of compost, each currently in their own stage of processing — and one of them was so fresh and hot that it was steaming!

Eventually, we finished off our tour at the Two Coves Community Garden where their outreach programs began. Here they maintain 26 compost barrels and Stephanos also showed us this nifty sifter made out of a wood frame, chicken wire, and bicycle wheels:

You can find out more about composting in NYC at nyc.gov