From Classroom To Compost

Doña Ana County is in a unique geographic border region known as the Paso del Norte, that is presented with the difficult community challenge of environmental conservation issues that threaten water, soil health, and biodiversity. Converting deserts into arable, green landscapes is a global vision, and desert farming is a strong growth area of agriculture worldwide.  Chihuahuan Desert Charities is being proactive and preparing our youth for the future. A large part of the DYGUP regenerative agriculture curriculum is learning the value of composting, biodiversity and enriching soil.

Participants of our DYGUP program build a bioreactor.  A bioreactor is a name given to an enclosed composting vessel. The difference between a bioreactor and a typical composting system is that more parameters of the composting process can be measured and controlled in bioreactors. Even though the degradation of organic wastes has been happening since the introduction of life on our planet, it still is not completely understood. Using a bioreactor enables students and teachers to study and manipulate composting parameters inside a classroom or lab setting.

I see a transformation in these students. The teens come into the program having an understanding of how food production impacts the environment, but the hands-on farming experience makes the lesson more comprehensible. The students leave the farm fully grasping how important it is to be a good land steward," -- Shahid Mustafa, DYGUP/SUSTAIN Program Director.

Compost as a fertilizer and soil amendment improves soil and plants by returning organic matter to the soil in a usable form. Compost helps break up heavy clay soils, improving its drainage. It makes sandy soil better able to retain water and essential nutrients. Adding compost to soil improves plant growth and is essential for gardens in the Chihuahuan desert. Improving the soil is the first step toward improving the health of plants.

Agriculture accounts for 79.6% of the state's water usage and represents a $4.03 billion dollar industry in NM. The economy of the state depends heavily on agriculture, ranching, and other natural resource-based activities and many New Mexicans have a personal connection to their environment and have experience with tradeoffs between economic development and conservation.  This makes issues of natural resource conservation, such as water and biodiversity, important to the prosperity of New Mexico.


Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” - Thomas Jefferson


Composting for Kids


The DYGUP & SUSTAIN Program is a non-profit dedicated to regenerative organic agricultural practices to teach the benefits of land stewardship in the Paso del Norte Region. DYGUP, an acronym for Developing Youth from the Ground Up, is available to youth ages 14-17. The SUSTAIN program targets adults over 18 and combines "Roots Of Success" Environmental Literacy Curriculum with intensive farmer training. The DYGUP/ Sustain Program has many partnerships in the community including Taylor Hood Farms, Backyard  Farms LC, First Christian Church, and Las Cruces High-School. Chihuahuan Desert Charities is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for DYGUP & Sustain and support their important work in the Las Cruces community.

Support the DYGUP & Sustain Program at Legacy Farm in Las Cruces by visiting