October 2022 Newsletter
Regenerative Ag Composting - Part 3
We are continuing to look at different facets of Regenerative Agriculture and how it relates to composting organic "wastes". With this video, Glenn will walk you through a virtual tour of Alderspring Ranch in May, Idaho ... an underground tour!
As you take the tour, he will talk about soil health (and how they've nearly tripled our soil organic matter!), rotational grazing (also sometimes known as holistic planned grazing or holistic management), how to do a soil infiltration test to see how well your soil absorbs rainfall (an important test relating to soil health and soil organic matter), and all kinds of other stuff to do with regenerative agriculture. Link to Alderspring Ranch video.
RULE 8 - Think Big, Start Small
O2Compost works with a wide variety of organic “wastes” in the agricultural, municipal and institutional sectors. Many of our clients envision themselves starting a composting business (see Rule 1). For this group – and in particular for those who have never been involved with composting but see it as a golden opportunity – I always recommend that they “Think Big - Start Small”. By starting small, you can “test the water” and minimize your upfront investment and if for any reason it doesn’t work out, no harm, no foul.
First, it is important to learn the basic principle of composting and to process several batches of compost using varying mix recipes (see Rule 2).
Second, you will need to test the logistics of gathering and handling various feedstocks. If you are taking materials from other waste generators, it is important to have control over these feedstocks to avoid contaminants (non-compostable materials like plastic, metal, bailing twine, persistent herbicides, etc.). It is also very important to have control over the volumes of material that you receive. DO NOT hang a sign on your front gate that effectively says “Come One – Come All”. I did this once and it was the worst (and most expensive) business decision I ever made.
Third, have your product tested by a certified laboratory to understand the quality of your finished product. You will want to understand how your compost will affect plant growth and how it should be used. To this end, I recommend that you conduct some simple growth trials to see for yourself how it performs.
Fourth, develop a simple marketing plan. Give some of your compost away to the bellwether members of your local garden club and get their feedback. I have found this to be the fastest way to get the marketing wheel turning. When you do this, get ready for your telephone to start ringing.
Fifth, get good legal and accounting advice and develop a business plan. Most people don’t do this and ultimately experience unnecessary growing pains.
When you have done these things, scale up slowly and in planned increments. As your volumes increase, you will get to a point where you will need larger equipment and a larger working area. It goes without saying that all of this will cost you money.
Back in the early 1990’s, when I first started composting on my own, I spent a lot of time at a friend’s dairy farm where I was “playing” with sloppy dairy manure mixed with horse manure and bedding. One day my wife asked me “Is this a hobby or is this a business?” To which I replied, “What do you need to hear?” She then asked, “Will we make any money doing this?” and I said “I think so, eventually”. She said, “OK, every man needs a hobby”.
The Compost Company
Cheatham County, Tennessee
Over the past 22 years of offering Compost Training Programs, O2Compost has worked with many start-up compost businesses, including The Compost Company in Tennessee. As with all such projects, we advise our clients to “Think Big - Start Small” with the caveat “Mistakes are critical to the learning process but small mistakes are better than large ones.”
In 2014, we were contacted by Ed Wansing, a former green-building architect turned compost entrepreneur. Ed grew up on a Missouri farm and felt a connection to the earth. At an architectural conference, he ran into a colleague who knew of a hauling contractor that transported organic waste for Walmart to a distant recycling facility. What the hauler wanted was a closer facility to reduce the time and cost of transportation, and this became the initial idea for their new business.
Read the full article on our Blog.
A Bird's Eye View of an Extended Aerated Static Pile
"Do I need to continue to pump air during the curing phase or can I move the material from the bin and let it cure out of the way of the next batch?"
ANSWER: No additional air is required during the curing phase. Yes, you can move the material to a separate pile and, if it seems dry (<50% moisture), I suggest wetting it down a bit as you remix it. If you have constructed more than two bins, I suggest simply turning off the air flow and leaving the compost in the bin during the curing phase.
"Should I screen the material prior to or after the curing phase?"
ANSWER: I suggest waiting until the compost is well cured to screen it. Leaving the coarse material in the compost will help you maintain porosity so that you get some air exchange to the core of the pile.
New Benchmark System
Owner: Edward R.
Location: Gig Harbor, WA
ON OUR WEBSITE - Read about the unique features of this system!