by LINDA FRABL | photos by Soul of Photography 

Master Composter

volunteer_ray_4Ann Ray, a Del Mar resident for more than 40 years, loves her community’s “small town feel … and the beach!” Striving to spend as much time outdoors as possible, Ann’s appreciation of nature has manifested itself to her current volunteer position as a master composter for the Solana Center, an environmental-based nonprofit organization. She completed the Center’s five-week master composter course and continues to volunteer by building compost piles in local gardens, helping students manage their school worm bins, and providing outreach education through workshops, school presentations, and other local events.

Her hard work resulted in Ann winning last year’s Gold Pitchfork Award, which is given to a master composter who has shown outstanding service as a Solana Center volunteer. Ann simply stated, “Gardening is in my blood, and I find it fascinating that a tiny seed can have so much information in it. This work makes me feel that I’m making a difference and leaving a healthier world for my son.”

Passionate about disseminating composting information to the public, Ann explained, “Composting is part of a good garden. Good soil grows better plants, reduces the amount of green waste, and saves money!” Thankfully, the Solana Center is an excellent fit for Ann, as the nonprofit recently won the California Governor’s 2016 Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, the state’s highest honor.

volunteer_ray_3The Solana Center is currently working on the region’s most pressing environmental problems, such as developing local solutions for California businesses affected by the new state mandate, AB 1826. The mandate requires that large volumes of organic waste need to be recycled instead of sent to landfills. Ann commented, “I feel my biggest accomplishment has been in educating people about why we need to divert organic material out of our landfills; it is because this waste breaks down without air and creates methane gas, which contributes to global warming and has a detrimental impact on our environment.”

Unfortunately, the Solana Center’s long-term lease in Encinitas won’t be renewed. The nonprofit is currently searching for a new space with enough acreage to house its storefront, offices, educational workshops, demonstration garden, worm bins, and the showcasing of rainwater harvesting barrels. Ann shared, “My wish would be that the Solana Center finds a new home so it can continue to be a hub for cultivating environmental stewards for our community.”


Name: Ann Ray
Community: Del Mar
Volunteer Affiliation: Solana Center for Environmental Innovation
Profession: Full-time mom, part-time enrichment teacher for afterschool gardening, part-time San Diego Fair farm worker, and I run my son’s elementary school garden
Family: Married with a son
Favorite Spots in Del Sol: Pizza Port, Del Mar Swirls


Group: Solana Center for Environmental Innovation
Mission: To empower students and adults through education and action to become environmental stewards in their communities.
Contact: www.solanacenter.org

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