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News Releases from Region 09

University of Arizona receives $91,000 grant to create Santa Cruz County’s first compost center

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Margot Perez-Sullivan (

SAN FRANCISCO –Today, the University of Arizona and Santa Cruz County launched the county’s first compost center at Rio Rico High School in Rio Rico, Ariz. The center’s creation was supported through a $91,519 North American Development Bank grant in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“This center will create valuable compost from discarded produce,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker. “Instead of taking up space in a landfill, the University of Arizona will feed people, reduce waste and teach high school students about zero waste practices.”

“This project fulfills the mission of the UA Cooperative Extension Compost Cats program in creating new partnerships, providing jobs and job training for local youth, and transforming would-be waste into valuable products that can be reinvested in our agricultural soils,” said UA Compost Cats Director Chester F. Phillips.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s new center will compost about 3,000 tons of produce each year. That compost will be used on farms, gardens, and rangelands, benefiting the environment and advancing agricultural production across the region. The center will be operated by the University of Arizona “Compost Cats,” who will train and employ local students from Rio Rico High School, Santa Cruz County Community College, and University of Arizona South students.

The new compost center also features a refrigerated semi-trailer, which increases the center’s capacity to divert usable excess produce to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

 More than two million tons of produce cross the Mariposa-Nogales Port of Entry, one of the busiest land crossings along the US-Mexico border. Though the produce industry delivers nearly 99 percent of produce to market in good condition, food waste remains a challenge, with over 20 tons sent to Southern Arizona landfills daily.

Along with the university and county, the center was developed in cooperation with the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District No. 35, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and Unisource Energy Services.

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