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Digging Into The Compost Biz

Digging Into The Compost Biz

Reskovacs opened the gate to on-farm composting at the urging of the Pennsylvania Resource Council. Trial run seen as a win-win for farm and grocers.

During lunchtime about a year ago, Mike asked Sheilah what she thought about getting into the composting business. Here's how their conversation evolved.

Sheilah: What do you mean what do I think about it? Don’t you think you have enough to do all ready?

Mike: Yeah, but what if we're getting paid to do it?

Sheilah: Well, that’s a different story. Tell me more.

Mike:  A Pennsylvania Resource Council rep had been trying to get me interested in composting for several months. I'd never really given him the time of day – until one day when I listened to his spiel.

GROCERY BAG UNBAGGED: Grocery chains seeking "green" and less expensive ways to recycle food wastes prefer on-farm solutions. Mixing proved to be a challenge.

The deal was something like this: Several grocery retail chains needed to get rid of their old produce. The stores wanted to be more “green” and were losing money having it hauled away to landfills.

The stores' solution was to have the waste hauled locally to a compost site. They, in turn, would pay us to take their waste. The stores still would save money.

Sheilah: I wasn’t sure what to think at first. The extra income would definitely help pay for some of Mike's toy – I mean equipment – purchases. I had a lot of questions Mike didn’t have answers for.

So we set up a meeting with the guy. The next week, he came out, answered our (my) questions and we looked at potential sites.

Mike: We decided to give it a try. If worse came to worse, we'd stop when our contract was up.

Sheilah: That husband of mine will try anything. That's not always a good thing, but so far this seemed to be going okay.

READY TO FIELD-SPREAD: At least partially composted materials await fall field spreading as an alternative high-organic matter fertilizer source.

Mike: It took a little longer than expected to get all the paper work and technicalities done: Applications, permits, site development, inspections, and coordinating with other people who were receiving the produce and scheduling. But we got it done.

Sheilah: Just when I thought this deal was going straight down the drain, Mike called me at work to tell me we were getting compost. And, the first load was supposed to come that afternoon.

Mike: "Supposed to" is right. The truck driver broke down and was running late.

Trying something new on the farm for the first time is an interesting experience to begin with – especially at midnight during a thunderstorm.

Sheilah: It went okay on my end. I slept through the whole thing!

Mike: So far (as of Sept. 1), we've received five loads of produce and are mixing it with ground yard wastes from a local municipality. I had to make some adjustments to our dumping site.

It also took a little while to figure out the best way to get the produce into windrows. But – knock on wood – everything's going fine.

Mike Reskovac is president of Pennsylvania Corn Growers Association. The Reskovacs farm near Uniontown, Pa. Read all their "Two Hearts, One Harvest" columns in American Agriculturist.

This opinion is not necessarily that of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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