With approval of the no cost extension in 1999, this project continued to produce compost. The sharing of the compost turner with four additional area farmers produced finished compost for local markets. Finished compost has been marketed by the farmers individually. The contract with the Montague FFA expired and there was no additional funding to support this marketing effort.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The additional neighboring farms that used the turner added to the supply of finished compost (a limiting factor in 1998) to help meet market demand. These farms, as well as the two project farms and the Muskegon Conservation District contributed to the continued leasing of the compost turner.
In 1999, with assistance by Greg Mund (USDA-NRCS), the farmers explored the formation of a compost cooperative. Information provided by USDA-Rural Development was evaluated by participants as to the legal requirements for a cooperative. Although there was interest, and this is a viable solution to sharing a turner and marketing of compost, this effort did not move forward. Primary barriers were the necessity for one or two individuals to take leadership in the cooperative formation, which no one had the time or desire to take on this task.
As stated, a total of 5-6 farms have been producing finished compost, with an estimated 900-1000 cu yards produced each year (Wackernagel/Sikkenga primary producers). This supply helps to meet the growing market, which has been for landscaping and area organic vegetable farms. There is no question, the marketing program Montague FFA created (1997-98) helped to create the local awareness and demand. Unfortunately, between student and teacher turnover, and Montague FFA financial needs, there was no extension of the marketing contract.
This demand has created interest from area farmers to produce compost, not only for the market demand, but as well as a manure management system. One farm is on track to establish a system (similar to Wackernagel’s) via the USDA-Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) using compost for their beef and hog operation.
Additionally, the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) has designated the neighboring Muskegon River Watershed pilot project area for their CORE 4/Know Your Watershed programs. Through this project and the materials produced (information/education, etc.) the CTIC is promoting livestock manure composting as a manure management system. Emphasis will be on the formation of a “Compost Alliances” with local composters. Our groups will definitely be a candidate for an Alliance with primary discussion taking place now.
The five-six local farms are in negotiations with Pitsch Leasing to purchase the turner. Once purchased, and through Greg Mund’s continued assistance, we anticipate to increase the volume of finished compost, and to form a “compost alliance” through CTIC/USDA-NRCS assistance.
A composting field day for “thumb area” (east side of Michigan) producers was scheduled for September 2000 and included a tour of the Wackernagel farm. Due to schedule conflicts, this field day has been postponed until spring 2001. It is being coordinated with the Michigan Agricultural Stewardship Association (MASA), a private consultant and our local composting group. Note: we are including this cost in this billing and agree to provide the field day services from publicizing and hosting the field day at the Wackernagel farm in 2001.
As mentioned, the local effort to establish composting (MIFFS, SARE, MCD, NRCS, Wackernagel) was expanded to four area farms in 1999/2000.
Area farms are learning about composting, primarily through word of mouth, via our project, local NRCS technical assistance and the Muskegon River-CTIC project. Due to these connections, there are a total of eight new farms in the three county areas planning to implement composting as their manure management systems.
Thanks to the SARE connection, Bob Wackernagel was interviewed for an upcoming article in a SARE publication about his composting operation. Greg Mund assisted the reporter as well on the mechanics of on farm composting.