Washington County is a strong agricultural county surrounded by large rural/suburban populations. Manure management is a major challenge for livestock operations and composting is one viable option for improving manure management. However, a strong composting industry should involve not only agriculture but the business community and municipalities.
The Compost Network, established with the help of this SARE Partnership Grant, attempts to bring together a variety of operations in all sectors of the community to facilitate composting.
Four objectives were set forth in the Compost Network proposal. Three of them were completed.
First, case studies were developed for three composting facilities and two waste generators. The purpose of these case studies is to help those that want to duplicate this Compost Network in their own communities. The five case studies help one to understand the challenges and economics of composting and waste management. These case studies will be available on the web site devoted to the Compost Network.
The second objective was to personally contact potential Network participants; provide them with a brief educational piece on the Compost Network; and list them in the Network. A hired assistant who visited a list of “waste generators” already identified in Washington County region accomplished this. As a result, there are 38 operations currently listed in the Compost Directory. Since this is an on-going project, more listings are expected in the future by the project coordinator as a result of routine Extension work.
The third objective was to work with local municipalities and develop an economical way to transport leaves from suburban communities to rural composting facilities. This objective was not accomplished. Many efforts were made, but the work schedules of Extension staff and municipal personnel were completely incompatible.
The fourth objective was to print a directory of the Compost Network and put it on the web. The Compost Network is currently on the web site of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Washington County at, www.cce.cornell.edu/washington. There are 38 operations listed: 14 make or sell compost; 20 generate waste materials for composting; 7 rent or sell compost related machinery; 6 sell gravel, recycled asphalt or cement, or provide other aggregate for composting pads; and 8 provide trucking or other composting related services. This directory is a good start for the Compost Network and will hopefully grow in the future.
A fairly good distribution of compost facilities and waste generators has been established with the Compost Network. Business interactions are not quick to happen, since they are a result of relationships that must develop between people. On-going efforts are being made by the project coordinator to identify potential business associations and initiate those contacts. The goal for 2005 is to initiate these business contacts and develop the necessary relationships.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
Over the past two years of this project, there have been several articles about the Compost Network in Cooperative Extension newsletters and local papers. Copies of these articles will be mailed with the final report. Articles will be written in the future to continue the outreach efforts.
Another way to potentially stimulate the success of this project and reach other audiences, is to hold a “Networking Reception” or similar meeting. Attendees could meet others face to face, that have interest in composting.
Areas needing additional study
One question often raised by farmers, but difficult to answer, is how much compost will it take to saturate the market. A market research study to answer this question would take a lot of expertise and resources. Maybe it is worth answering, but I am not sure. Some farmers feel that once they start making compost, the market would be saturated. This causes them concern about making compost. On the other hand, millions of dollars of peat products are imported from Canada. If domestic compost could replace a small portion of this product for the nursery and bedding plant industry, a large and high-value market for compost would develop.