Demonstration Pilot for Composting of Manure, Wood Chips and Leaves on a Certified-Organic Produce Farm via Aerated Static Pile Composting

Project Overview

FNE21-979
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2021: $11,133.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Honey Brook Organic Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Project Leader:
Sherry Dudas
Honey Brook Organic Farm

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Animal Production: manure management, other
  • Crop Production: municipal wastes, nutrient management, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: public policy

    Proposal summary:

    This project will establish a demonstration pilot for safe and efficient composting of manure, wood chips and tree leaves on a certified-organic produce farm via Aerated Static Pile (ASP) composting. The farm, Honey Brook Organic Farm, is a large preserved farm located in the heart of preserved open space and farmland at the intersection of Burlington, Mercer and Monmouth counties in NJ.

    Because of the concentration of farms actively devoted to agriculture in this area, horse manure from small to mid-size horse farms is abundant. Manure that is often left stored and unmanaged wastes a valuable nutrient source and potentially contributes to ground and surface water pollution.

    In addition, tree leaves currently collected by Allentown Borough, a local municipality, are delivered to the farm annually in the fall.  If not delivered to the farm, the municipality must transport the leaves significant distances to commercial composters, and also has to pay tipping fees.  

    The farm also accepts wood chips on the farm as an important feedstock.  Wood chips have become more abundant as storms with heavy winds have proliferated in this area, in all likelihood exacerbated by global climate change.  

    Currently, manure, leaves and wood chips are mixed and readied for windrow composting, which takes up valuable farm space and requires high labor inputs for windrow pile turning and maintenance. In addition, windrow composting can take a long time—6-12 months. An ASP system would optimize the composting process and allow for operational efficiencies, saving time, space and money.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project plans to measure two low tech composting systems (windrow and low cost/low tech ASP) side by side and compare them, both in terms of cost (labor, fuel, equipment usage and wear and tear), time and quality of finished compost (nutrient content, biological activity, pH, moisture, etc.). Initial piles will be assembled at the same time, utilizing the same volume of materials and the same “recipe”, including C:N ratio. Our objectives are stated via the questions we seek to answer:

    1. What cost savings are possible with ASP versus windrow composting (labor, equipment, fuel)?
    2. What amount of feedstock can be processed and what quantity of finished compost can be produced in a year utilizing ASP versus windrow composting?
    3. What are the physical, biological and chemical properties of compost produced using ASP versus windrow composting?
    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.