Beth Grollmes-Kiefer is on a mission to nourish the land, one compost subscription at a time.
When Beth Grollmes-Kiefer thinks back on her path to owning her own composting business and farm, she can't help but laugh at how unexpected life can be.
"I was never someone who said, 'All I want to do is farm,'" Grollmes-Kiefer says. "If you would have asked sixteen-year-old me, I would have been like, 'Oh my god no.' I never could have predicted what future or current me would be."
Grollmes-Kiefer may not have imagined spending her days in the dirt, but now that she is, she couldn't be happier. As founder of Perennial City Composting
, Grollmes-Kiefer has dedicated herself to nurturing the earth through its subscription-based composting service, offering residents of St. Louis and mid-St. Louis County the ability to make an earth-friendly decision, even if they lack the capacity to do so on their own.
A native of Topeka, Kansas, Grollmes-Kiefer moved to town to study nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University. Though she loved the subject matter, she found that once she started working in the field, the jobs were not the right fit.
"It just wasn't what I wanted to do," Grollmes-Kiefer explains. "I don't like doing the same thing all of the time and doing what I am told to do. I wanted to do something else."
While working a front-desk security job at Saint Louis University, Grollmes-Kiefer found a kindred spirit who would inspire her to realize her life's passion. Tim Kiefer, who is now her husband, would regularly show up at her desk as part of his work. Tim had just launched the bicycle delivery service Food Pedaler, and when he dropped by with orders to her building, the two would talk. Eventually, those talks got longer and the pair began to share their mutual passion for everything from food and farming to goats and coffee. Grollmes-Kiefer found not only her soulmate, but someone who encouraged her to follow her own path, even if it wasn't what she thought it would be.
"Everyone is afraid of risk at some level, but Tim is less so," Grollmes-Kiefer explains. "He would tell me, 'If we fail, at least we are still together.' Having that shared risk made me think, 'What's the worst that can happen?'"
With Kiefer's encouragement and willingness to share his business experience, Grollmes-Kiefer launched Perennial City Composting
in January 2018 as a subscription-based residential composting service. As Grollmes-Kiefer explains, the service is meant to help customers who want to compost, but don't have the time or capacity to do it on their own.
"The zero-waste movement is becoming popular, but there are a lot of people who feel like they can't do it because they are in a city apartment or don't have the time," Grollmes-Kiefer explains. "This allows them to do that. Plus, our subscribers are really happy that they don't have to take the trash out as much."
Composting is only part of Grollmes-Kiefer's overall plan for Perennial City. She and her husband also bought a plot of land in the city's Visitation Park neighborhood that they are turning into an urban farm. The compost from their subscribers is turned into soil that Grollmes-Kiefer uses to grow vegetables and flowers. Subscribers will have access to the result.
Moving forward, Grollmes-Kiefer envisions the agriculture side of the business as her main focus. She wants to grow as much as possible on the land, raising chickens and creating a lush food forest.
"Tim and I are both passionate about urban agriculture and challenging people to see what is possible in the city," Grollmes-Kiefer says. "There is all of this vacant land — lots that have been sitting there for decades. We want to challenge people and give them the confidence that we can produce our own food in an urban environment."
Grollmes-Kiefer took a break from tending to her compost subscribers' charming green buckets to share her thoughts on the St. Louis food-and-beverage community, her love for coffee and fries and why you won't find her doing any job other than her current one.
What is one thing people don’t know about you that you wish they did?
Nothing. I love privacy and enjoy being a woman of mystery. **end of interview** Just kidding.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you?
Blueprint Coffee! Gotta be Blueprint, gotta be hot. It’s a chemical dependence.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Doing an I Dream of Jeannie
head nod and magically turning sad, contaminated ground into kickass soil for growing delicious food.
What is the most positive thing in food, wine or cocktails that you’ve noticed in St. Louis over the past year?
An increased focus on local food and farmers.
Who is your St. Louis food crush?
Ted Wilson of Union Loafers. Loafers is my absolute favorite restaurant. Everything is always top notch, and I leave feeling like a million bucks. They catered our wedding. I love them.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality?
Garlic. Down to earth, with a little bit of bite, but there are ways to make it sweet. Plus, I really enjoy growing garlic.
If you weren’t working in this business, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t working in this business I’d be sulking around somewhere, bummed out, because I’m already living the dream!
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen.
Fake meat. Pick a team. You can’t have it all.
What is your after-work hangout?
What’s your food or beverage guilty pleasure?
Fries. Especially "Rip fries" from Mac’s Local Eats and fries from Taste with plenty of garlic aioli. But they’re simply a pleasure; I never feel guilty.
What would be your last meal on earth?
I think knowledge of my imminent death would spoil my appetite.
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