Over the last two years, the Bioenergy Innovation Center has hosted numerous tours, community groups, and local events. Now, it’s poised to play another role: A living laboratory for Sussex County high school students to learn about agriculture and the environment.

“Innovation to us is more than just about science and technology – it’s about strengthening our community as well,” said Monica Peterschmidt, Bioenergy Devco Director of Community Engagement. 

Shown is Christine Justice of the Seaford Boys & Girls Club.

“We love being able to welcome and support everyone from gardeners to students, farmers to young kids. Forming connections and building friendships is part of our core values.”

One of the projects is with Seaford High School Future Farmers of America. The BIC’s 240 acres have been opened to students at Seaford High School for various conservations, agricultural, and horticultural projects. 

“Current projects we have started at the Bioenergy Innovation Center site are installing wood duck boxes and bat boxes on that site and started measuring and designing a polymer-friendly landscape to go around our future visitor center,” said Matt Cohee, Environmental Science Pathway Teacher at Seaford High School, and Future Farmers of America Advisor. “We look forward to utilizing their compost more to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers in our greenhouse and also our land application and studying how the use of compost improves overall health for the soil by increasing microorganism usage.”

Bioenergy Innovation Center is also in discussions with the Delaware Beekeepers Association to place some apiaries on the property to be maintained by the students.

Other partnerships and community ties that have grown over the last two years include the following:

• Sussex Garden Clubs: Among the center’s first partners were local garden clubs and Sussex County Master Gardeners. The BIC has donated compost to the Spade and Trowel club 

in Seaford, which handles public plantings and beautification around the city. Compost has also gone to the Master Gardeners for their demonstration garden, and BIC team members have given educational presentations at their open houses.

• Community Gardens: The center holds an annual compost donation campaign each fall to support community gardens. This fall’s effort saw 89 tons of compost going to eight gardens across southern Delmarva, from Seaford to Lewes to Salisbury. Many of the community gardens, like the one in Seaford at the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club, distribute thousands of pounds of food to people in need in their towns.

• Community Events: For several years, the center has played host to families, community groups, and local organizations at Mother’s Day and Halloween events. The spring event invites children to plant flowers in pots as gifts for moms, with donations of composters and native trees. The fall event includes pumpkin decorating and trunk-or-treating. Each features informational tables from local organizations to spread the word about their work.

“Sussex County is where our team lives, works, and plays, and we’re committed to helping our communities grow and thrive. Being good neighbors is part of our DNA,” Peterschmidt said.

For more information on Bioenergy Innovation Centers’ Community Engagement programs or to get information about our compost or schedule a tour, call 302-628-2360 or visit our website at www.bioenergyic.com.

Seaford-made compost available through garden centers across Delmarva 

Colorful flowerbeds or thriving backyard gardens tended by residents across Delmarva are nurtured with compost created right here in western Sussex County.

Each year, about 40 businesses pick up truckloads of rich compost created at the Bioenergy Innovation Center to supply their customers planting fruits, vegetables, or flowers. Other customers include landscaping firms wanting to enhance soil health.

“Spring is the busiest season here, when most homeowners start their gardening with enthusiasm,” said Jeff Deats, director of operations and maintenance at the Bioenergy Innovation Center. “The compost is very popular, and the local demand often exceeds the supply.”

About 12 local garden centers purchase the compost on a regular basis, while others buy it once a year for greenhouse or other planting operations. Still other businesses purchase the compost to make custom soil blends tailored to specific purposes.

The center sells about 17,000 tons of compost each year on average, and often sells out between batches, Deats said. “Our compost supplies everyone from the local homeowner to landscapers putting down sod,” he said.

It takes about four months to produce a finished batch of compost at the center, and each batch must be laboratory tested.