Composting Education and Information Access for Western Agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $145,275.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $44,979.00
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Cinda Williams
University of Idaho Extension
Robert Rynk
University of Idaho

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: municipal wastes, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers, application rate management
  • Education and Training: extension, networking
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Pest Management: biological control, compost extracts
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities


    Compost Education and Resources for Western Agriculture or CERWA was a regional, three-year, comprehensive educational program for agricultural professionals about agricultural composting and compost use. The goal of the project was to increase the knowledge, effectiveness, and comfort level of agricultural professionals in dealing with agricultural composting issues. Specific objectives were to provide: (1) a 'beyond the basics' understanding of agricultural composting and compost use, (2) mechanisms for further information retrieval and (3) products to increase their capability for teaching their clientele.

    To meet these objectives we held two educational programs downlinked by satellite to over 45 sites in the western region. We provided resource information packets to all 550 participants of each program. At each site, a facilitator coordinated the satellite instruction plus additional on site presentations to address local issues and conditions. The first program (Nov. 1998) covered the composting process and how it fits in with agricultural operations. The second program, held three months later (Jan. 1999), discussed the use of compost as a soil amendment. Both programs included numerous examples or case studies of real farm situations where compost was being produced or used (or both). Farmers relayed their experiences with composting including the benefits and disadvantages to their operation. The satellite programs also featured compost researchers and consultants in a panel discussion that was open to call in questions from viewers.

    To further address the objective of improving information access, a project website was developed and quarterly newsletters were distributed to all agricultural extension educators and NRCS field advisors in the western region. The project provided numerous resources for agricultural professionals to use in their educational programs. The CERWA team produced and distributed a third CERWA video on The Future of Agricultural Composting and Compost Use. This video was developed in three 20-minute segments and provided a closer look at the issues of marketing compost, composting regulations, and emerging technologies. We also compiled and developed an electronic (PDF) document CERWA Answers Your Compost Questions, and created a collection of web-based compost images.

    The response to this project has been very positive. Pre and post test evaluations indicated that both site facilitators and participants attending CERWA satellite programs increased their level of knowledge regarding composting and compost use. A follow up CERWA survey indicated that most of the agricultural professionals who served as site facilitators felt that they were better informed about composting and compost use because of the program. Ninety eight percent said CERWA provided them with the materials they needed to address issues and educate clientele about composting and compost use. Project team members indicated they have received many new contacts for resources and information about this program. CERWA helped to create, expand, and strengthen connections among a network of people who are interested in issues of composting and compost use.

    Project objectives:

    The goal of the project was to increase the knowledge, effectiveness, and comfort level of agricultural professionals in dealing with agricultural composting issues. To advance that goal, the project proposed the following objectives.

    1. Impart a "beyond the basics" understanding of composting to agricultural professionals (e.g. educators, advisors, and service providers).
    2. Provide resources for participants to extend composting knowledge to local clientele.
    3. Establish mechanisms for agricultural professionals to access and retrieve current information about composting and the performance of compost in agricultural production systems.

    Ultimately, the aim is to improve and expand the practice of composting within western agriculture, and thereby enhance agricultural sustainability.

    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.