What's Up South Texas!: Mother-daughter duo turns kitchen trash into garden treasure

By Japhanie Gray - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - One mother-daughter duo has dedicated their lives to encouraging and educating their community about the importance of composting.

Besty Gruy and her daughter, Kate Jaceldo, both grew up on ranchland. Gruy started her life with a green thumb first.

“I grew up in Dallas,” Gruy said. “I was the second of nine children. We grew up on a large, 4-acre plot of land, and my favorite things to do were to read and do absolutely nothing but mess around in the dirt. I loved dirt. I love flowers and everything else, but I really love dirt.”

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Gruy later married Jaceldo’s dad where they lived out in the country.

“It was literally in the middle of nowhere, and I loved it,” Gruy said. “Then we came to San Antonio. I have always gardened. I loved the science of it and the entire process. I loved compost.”

Compost is organic matter that is decomposed so all of the nutrients go back into the soil, causing the soil to thrive to feed plants.

“I spent the first 11 years of my life on a ranch in South Texas where we had to deal with our trash ourselves,” Jaceldo said. “We burned it. Had to place it in a dump. Even then, I always knew something wasn’t right with that process. Anyway, I think I was very ready to move to the city more than anyone.”

Jaceldo went on to become a teacher and then a social worker in the public school system. Then, all of a sudden, her mom approached her with an idea.

“I saw this PBS thing on this woman my age in Brookland who started composting food waste, and I thought, ‘If she could do it, I could do it.’ She used this process called Bokashi. I became the visionary of this new chapter, but I needed someone who could make it happen, and it was Kate.”

“She came to me with this idea, and at that time, I was a burned-out social worker in the public school system, so I thought it was a really good idea,” Jaceldo said. “She explained to me about food waste, when it goes to landfill, it doesn't just go away or turn into compost or whatever. It decays and turns into methane gas, which is one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases, so that is when I knew I needed to be urgent about this.”

Gruy works full-time with composting.

“How we start is we get coffee chaff from what is brewing or what comes off of coffee beans when they roast them,” Gruy said. “We mix it with our special, fermented liquid that has gone through a fermentation process, and we put the coffee chaff, get rainwater from the rain barrel, get molasses and the liquid, and we mix it up and get it all down. We put it in an airtight bucket and set it aside for two weeks to let it ferment. After it has fermented for two weeks, we bring it outside and we just lay it out on a tarp and let it dry. When it is dry, we bottle it up for our clients and send it off to farms.”

Jaceldo handles the marketing aspect of the job.

“Katie has all of these people skills, and she likes being in the public,” Gruy said. “She knows how to deal with people, and I am 200 percent introvert. I don’t want to be with people very much. I play with the food waste, I play with the buckets. I try to figure ways to make the compost better.”

“In San Antonio, it seems like the food scene, the environmental aspect, and the local agriculture scene is all coming together, so we are just trying to close that loop,” Jaceldo said. “It is fun because I am an introvert, too, but I do want to go out and make connections. She has a lot of ideas and sends stuff to me on what connections I need to make. When I am doing the marketing or website and stuff, I am having to learn on the fly. She’s giving me those ideas.”

Jaceldo said the biggest obstacle is convincing people on the importance of composting.

“Education is huge and helping them understand why they need to care about compost and why they need to care about their food waste,” Jaceldo said.

“A great thing about compost is that it pulls carbon out of the air, so all of that carbon that is causing climate problems goes back, and it feeds the plants and feeds the soil, and it just gets better and better,” Gruy said.

The two officially launched their family business, called Compost Queens, in 2017. Currently, they have several clients and commercial businesses that work with them for composting.

To learn more information about their mission to save the Earth one bucket at a time, visit their website.

Compost Queens will also be present during the farmers market at the Pearl starting Feb. 16.

If you know someone like Gruy and Jaceldo who is making a difference in the South Texas community or who has a unique story, send us your tips. Contact Japhanie Gray on Facebook or @JGrayKSAT on Twitter. You can also send your tips to KSAT 12 & KSAT.com on Facebook.

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