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I Want More Information About Starting a Composting Business!

by Colleen
(Montana, USA)

I have sooo many questions about starting a compost business! Your article is very helpful but I still feel like I don’t know enough to get started! We have a large ranch in Montana and I am trying to think of ways I can contribute to our income as to offset all the burden on my husband. I think composting is a fantastic option for us!

In addition to having horse manure, I have a friend with a lawn care business and think I could negotiate with him to get lawn clippings, etc.

Below are some specific questions for the Tribe:

1) Can cow manure be used as well as horse manure?

2) Can grass clippings be used if the yard has been treated with chemicals? If so, at what point after the application can the clippings be used, especially if we are trying to produce organic compost?

3) If I can get produce from local grocery stores does it have to be organic in order for me to bill my compost as organic?

4) How does one use the worms for composting? Are they then shipped along with the compost?

5) Is having an enclosed structure with a cement floor best for running a composting business?

6) How do I know how much water, dirt, grass, manure, etc to use while making our compost?

7) What kind of bags should be used to ship?

I know this is a lot of questions but I really need to come up with something and I don’t want to waste a lot of time! Again, we have land, equipment, and my husband also does construction so we can build something if necessary. We even have a semi-truck for shipping…I just need guidance!

Thank you!

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Jan 10, 2012
Composting Business – The Planning Stage
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Hi Colleen,

I promised I’d reply within 24 hours and I’m currently pushing 26, so I’ll get right into your questions…

1. Of course! In The Waste Products of Agriculture, the Great Composting Guru, Sir Albert Howard, “…stressed the vital importance of animal digestive enzymes from fresh cow manure in making compost. When he experimented with making compost without manure the results were less than ideal.

2. Yes, you can compost grass clippings that have been treated with chemicals. I assume you’re concerned primarily with pesticide residues versus fertilizer residues. I don’t have hard numbers on this, but I would suggest the following…if you know that a lawn has been sprayed with pesticides, wait several weeks (hopefully it rains during this time) before cutting it and using it in your blends.

If you continue to go ahead with this plan, I would highly recommend educating yourself and your friend (lawn-care company owner) about the benefits of a biological approach to lawn-care. Learn to balance the nutrients in your soil (especially calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium), ensure adequate organic matter, and turf grass will become naturally-resistant to pests.

3. No. Unfortunately, the term “organic” has been greenwashed so it doesn’t have the same power it once did. I’ve seen compost that’s been made with bio-solids labelled as “organic”. Disturbing, eh? That’s why it’s always very important you ask any supplier if bio-solids have been used in their compost, and if the answer is yes, I suggest you take your business elsewhere.

4. Pardon the pun, but to do this question justice, we would be opening up a whole other can of worms. If you’re referring to composting with worms on a large scale, I suggest we set up another post for that. Also, we’ll learn more about this topic when we finish our interview with All Things Organic.

Depending on the producer, when you buy composting worms, they are usually shipped with compost and bedding.

continued below…

Jan 10, 2012
continued from above…
by: Compost Junkie Dave

…continued from above.

5. Having an enclosed structure and concrete floor is ideal, but often considered a luxury. Whether or not you require a concrete/asphalt pad depends a lot on the permeability of your existing site soil, as well as the height of the water table. Often times, large-scale composters are able to operate very well on a surface of compacted soil, sand, or gravel.

6. I wouldn’t worry to much about this question at this stage in the game. A couple questions I’d ask before worrying about specific blends are the following: Who is going to buy your compost? Where can you get enough free ingredients, on a consistent basis, to make this business model profitable? What are the regulations in your area for composting businesses?

Here is a link to the laws and statutes of composting put out by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Montana State government website is not very useful for researching state-specific compost regulations.

7. Typical bag is plastic.

I hope this provides some more insight and sparked some more questions. If so, please post them below.

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