Cal Poly Professional Development Compost Training and Establishment of the Cal Poly Compost Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $57,582.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Hunter Francis
CAFES Center for Sustainability


Not commodity specific


  • Soil Management: composting

    Proposal abstract:

    The following grant proposal requests funding to conduct a week-long professional development training for Cooperative Extension, Natural Resource Conservation Service and other agricultural professionals, educators and consultants in the area of on-farm composting. The week-long training to be held at Cal Poly State University is a collaboration between the Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) and the internationally-renowned Maine Compost School - a cooperative initiative between the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the Maine State Planning Office, which has been conducted successfully in Maine since 1997. A team of four Maine Compost School instructors will come to Cal Poly to conduct the workshop and help transfer their knowledge to our region. Topics covered in the week-long program include: the biology of composting, composting methods, site selection, management and permitting, quality and pathogen testing, marketing compost, compost utilization, environmental concerns and more. The Maine Compost School curriculum, which will be supplemented by Cal Poly and local expertise, features a combination of classroom lectures, hands-on exercises, and field trips. This approach will be replicated at the Cal Poly workshop. Participants who successfully complete a final exam will be awarded a certificate. The workshop will be coordinated by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (CAFES) Center for Sustainability at Cal Poly.

    Funding from this grant will also help Cal Poly coordinate its scholarly and research activities on campus which relate to composting, specifically in the Biology, Physics, Earth and Soil Sciences, Agribusiness, BioReources and Agricultural Engineering, and Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments. A secondary grant objective is to use faculty and staff involvement in this project to create an on-going Cal Poly Compost Project, which will coordinate related activities beyond the scope SARE funding. Furthermore, the workshop will assist us in the improvement of the Cal Poly Compost Unit, where the workshop will be held, for on-going education and professional development in composting. Generation of knowledge and activities through this collaborative process has the potential of serving Cal Poly and California agricultural community far beyond the timeframe of this grant. Cal Poly provides an ideal environment in which to hold professional development training in medium- to large-scale composting. Cal Poly has deep and varied connections to the agricultural industry, is known for its applied, polytechnic and “hands-on” focus, and is held in high regard across California.

    Composting is increasingly recognized as an effective tool for meeting several societal goals, including: waste reduction and diversion, soil enhancement, renewable sources of organic (non-synthetic) fertility, and carbon sequestration. In spite of new interest in composting over the past decade, there is still significant untapped potential for agriculture to play a role in appropriate conversion of organic matter. Funding of this grant will help SARE achieve its three primary professional development program goals: 1) Promotion of good stewardship of the nation’s natural resources; 2) Enhancement of the quality of life of farmers and ranchers and rural communities; and 3) Protection of the health and safety of those involved in food and farm systems by reducing the use of toxic materials in agricultural production and by optimizing on-farm resources and integrating, where appropriate, biological cycles and controls.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Increase of Cal Poly and regional knowledge and expertise in composting;
    New partnerships for the Cal Poly Compost Project through workshop collaborations;
    Identification and promotion of local resources for composting;
    Improvement of Cal Poly Compost Unit for student, graduate and professional training.
    Improved skills and capacity of participants to provide education in composting;
    More on-farm composting;
    Better diversion/use of organic (waste) materials (including sharing of feedstocks);
    More use of compost as a soil amendment and fertilizer.
    More receptivity of educators and agricultural professionals to benefits of composting;
    Healthier soils and cleaner environment;
    Increased profitability of local farms and ranches / more robust communities.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.