Search This Blog

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Power of Tours

Tour group shot @ a
Charlotte MRF
Throughout Elemental Impact's (Ei) eight-year history, tours played an integral role in educating the Ei Team on current scenarios and creative solutions to challenging situations.

In the early Zero Waste Zones days, tours centered around MRFs (material recovery facilities), recycling centers, manufacturers where recyclable items are raw materials, and generators with successful source-separated material systems in place. As Ei work segued to Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Pilots, tours focused on large generators where the consumer is responsible for material disposal. 

As the SFCI-Airport Pilot, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, hosted the SFCI Team on International Terminal tours during construction and post-opening. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI Team Tours New ATL Airport Int'l Concourse, chronicles the during construction tour; the SFCI Atlanta Airport Pilot: ACTION Resumes article showcases the post-opening tour.

Tim with post-game collected
food waste & packaging 
At the SFCI-Event Venue Pilot, the Georgia Dome hosted several Falcons games tours to understand post-consumer food waste and packaging generated by the concessionaire and disposed of by the fans. The ZWA Blog article, Winning Recycling Seasons: Team Work Required!, provides a recap of the 2013 game day recycling tour with the Mercedes Benz Stadium architects.

The Ei Tours website page details the many Ei-hosted tours, segregated by Farm, Industry, Partner, and SFCI Tours. Each tour is supported by a blog article and Ei FB album.

In July 2017, Ei shifted gears within the spiral of humanity's environmental impact. Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and Post-Consumer Food Waste to Soil Health, regenerating the foundation of life. The ZWA Blog article, Soil Health: regenerating the foundation of life, announces the new platform and showcases the powerful foundation built within the Recycling Refinement platform and Post-Consumer Food waste focus area.

In preparation for the official Soil Health platform announcement, Ei embarked on a Farm Tour series in early 2017 with Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer. Ei Farm Tours are focused on farms following regenerative agricultural practices, with a strong emphasis on rebuilding healthy soils. In addition, Tim stepped into his new Ei Leadership role as the SFCI Chair.

David educates Tim on the food
waste composting windrows
First on the tour agenda was the February tour of the King of Crops Farm, located 25 minutes from downtown Atlanta. King of Pops, a popular hand-crafted popsicle company, purchased the farm to source locally grown organic ingredients nurtured within regenerative agriculture practices. Farm Manager Russell Hondered treated the group to a thorough farm tour including a narrative on its history as a well-established nursery. Remnants from the past are evident throughout the land adding character to the farm.

In addition to farming, King of Crops is a state-permitted food waste compost site. Commercial and residential food waste hauler Compost Wheels delivers their material to the farm. Compost Wheels CEO David Paull joined the tour and educated on the farm food waste composting practices.

Hickory Grove Farm entrance
Next on the agenda was a Kennesaw State University (KSU) Hickory Grove Farm tour. Kim Charick with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 (Southeast Region) joined Tim and Ei Founder Holly Elmore. Farm Operations Manager Michael Blackwell and KSU Professor Jorge Perez gave a thorough farm tour, along with details on the land history.

In 2013 the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) leased the 26-acre tract of land to KSU for farm use. Formally, the site was the GDOT cement mixing site for nearby I-75 construction. Though not toxic, the soil was severely compacted and devoid of necessary minerals to sustain a healthy soil ecosystem. In addition, storm water flowed off the property, rather than hydrate the "dead soil."

Natural farm retention pond
With patience, tenacity and a strategic plan, the KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality restored the land through regenerative agriculture practices. Simple, effective storm water management techniques retain water on the property, including a vibrant natural retention pond. Soil restoration is a partnership with the land; continued nurturing through compost use, crop rotation and other regenerative applications are necessary to maintain and improve soil health.

In addition to serving as a laboratory for the Leven School and other departments, the farm supplies produce for The Commons, KSU's Gold LEED Certified dining hall. The farm's happy hens often supply 100% of the dining service's egg demand!

Student farm worker with
the happy hens
Within the farm operations is the state-of-the-art Hydroponic Lab where tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers are grown year round. Student volunteers stamp out soil blocks for seed planting in the Propagation Lab. Once germinated, the seedling soil blocks are planted in the High Tunnel and tended through harvest. By using soil blocks, the use of small plastic containers to grow saplings is eliminated.

Inspired by the farm tours, Tim teamed with Levy Restaurants Executive Chef Matt Roach and GWCC Grounds Operation Manager Steve Ware to identify an on-campus mini-farm area. The intent is to use regenerative agriculture practices at the on-campus mini-farm to produce food for the employee dining facility. 

In late July, Ei hosted the GWCC Team at Hickory Grove Farm where Michael & Jorge educated on regenerative agriculture practices along with crop choice advice; Steve shared his extensive horticulture expertise, especially pertaining to plant | tree identification in the farm's old growth forest areas.

Tour group shot within one of
the American Chesnut sprouts.
In the farm's old growth forest, there are two healthy shoots from former magnificent American Chestnuts killed by the chestnut blight. It is estimated 3 - 4 billion American Chestnuts were killed by the blight in the first half of the 20th century. Though healthy in appearance, the shoots remain vulnerable to the blight.

The GWCC team departed in high spirits, thrilled with on-campus farming opportunities and new friends at a fellow state-owned Institute.

For a pictorial recount of the Hickory Grove Farm tours, visit the Holly Elmore Images FB album, KSU Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. The Ei FB album, Ei Connects, includes a section on the King of Crops Farm Tour.

Beyond their educational value, tours build strong bonds among industry colleagues and inspire new, innovative projects. Ei is excited to embark on a Farm Tour series filled with new discoveries, inspiration, and empowerment within the Soil Health platform.

The potential GWCC on-campus mini-farm is a prime example of The Power of Tours! 


  1. Holly: Thank you so much for investing so much time in this research, and for generously sharing your findings.

    1. Thank YOU Pattie for taking the time to read the empowering article & commenting - much appreciated! Let's plan a fall Hickory Grove group tour - Tracy Gilchrist mentioned her strong interest! What fun with important impact!