Marketing on-farm compost for sustainability and economic viability
Farmers often compost for on-farm use, however selling the product off-farm presents challenges that comparatively few have successfully navigated. Demand for compost products is on the rise, presenting a viable value-added product for farmers. Resources about how to compost abound, however few resources exist to help farmers effectively market the product. This project will provide training and support to a minimum of 80 farmers for the marketing of value-added compost.
The Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC) and project Team Members will provide the tools to help farmers: 1) explore composting as a value-added product to support their current business operation; 2) understand the importance of quality control and compost recipe develop; 3) learn how to acquire the necessary permits to operate and market compost in their state; 4) explore potential feedstocks and pricing structures; 5) develop marketing and sales strategies to effectively meet local and regional demand; and 6) develop and implement a compost marketing plan. This project will provide free field day/workshops (fd/w’s) to beneficiaries, a Compost Marketing Toolkit, technical assistance with developing and implementing compost marketing plans, and verification through questionnaires and direct contact.
To date, Project Team members have actively participated in the formation of Compost Marketing Workshops. More than 1,000 emails and mailings of workshop fliers were sent directly to farm operators; farm associations; Agricultural Extension; State Soil and Water Conservation District Offices; and other agricultural entities requesting attendance, posting, and distribution of the announcement for the Compost Marketing Workshops. Resource materials were produced and included on a Resource Toolkit distributed to all workshop participants, as well as posted on NERC’s new Compost Marketing Webpage. Two Compost Marketing Workshops/Field Days have been held with 99 people participating, including 52 farmers and 17 agricultural specialists. Eight on-farm visitations have been made to initiate technical assistance in development of compost marketing plans.
Milestone 1: Form a Project Team of 19 individuals from four different states to assist in development of the Toolkit, outreach, workshop/field day/workshops (ws/fd’s) development and implementation, delivery of technical assistance, and project verification. (May 2009 – April 2013)
Milestone 2: 155 CD copies of Resource Toolkit distributed (80 to ws/fd’s participants, 40 to Agricultural Specialists, 35 SARE representatives), and posted on NERC website.
(September 2009 – March 2011)
Milestone 3: At least 500 on-farm composters will be contacted for participation in workshop/field days. (September 2009 – March 2011)
Milestone 4: 80 beneficiary farmers will gain knowledge and skills in compost marketing by participating in ws/fd’s and receiving the Toolkit. Beneficiaries will complete a questionnaire and be offered individual assistance to develop and implement a compost marketing plan. (Oct. 2009 – March 2011)
Milestone 5: 25 beneficiaries will ask for and be provided assistance in developing and implementing a compost marketing plan, including two on-farm consultations each. (Jan. 2010 – March 2012)
Milestone 6: Follow-up verification with (25) technical assistance beneficiaries and 10 case studies written documenting successfully implemented compost marketing plans. The case studies will be incorporated into an updated Toolkit. Revised toolkit will be mailed to SARE representatives and others upon request. (March 2012 – April 2013)
Performance Target: Of 80 farmers participating in the field day/workshops, 25 will develop compost marketing plans, 15 of which will implement the plans and sell value-added compost products within two years of implementing the marketing plan as measured by increased sales and tipping fees of roughly $36,000 to $56,000 annually for each participating beneficiary. Project Duration: 4 years.
In May 2009, communication commenced with Team Members, outlying the planned project and seeking input into tasks as well as suggestions for resources to include in the Resource Toolkit. Ongoing outreach continues to occur via conference calls, and telephone or email conversations with Project Team members, primarily Agricultural Specialist members from each participating state. Team Members were asked to review the marketing documents compiled by NERC staff. One Peer Expert compiled a document for the Resource Toolkit that is also posted on the NERC Compost Marketing Webpage. Several Agricultural Specialists and one Peer Expert have been presenters at the workshops held to date. Peer Experts Ray and Erich McEnroe of McEnroe Organics hosted the first New York workshop. Additionally, one Beneficiary Team Member attended the workshop. Another has signed up for the upcoming New York Workshop to be held in January 2011.
New York: Jean Bonhotal, Associate Director, Cornell Waste Management Institute; Dr. Robert Rynk, SUNY Cobleskill; Gary Feinland, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation; and Sally Rowland, Ph.D, P.E. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation all continue to participate on the Project Team. The Project Team was instrumental in helping to determine the logistics, dates, agenda, and speakers for both New York workshops. Members also reviewed the documents NERC developed for the project, and provided input into additional resources contained on the Toolkit. A conference call was held February 4, 2010; email and telephone dialogues are ongoing several months leading up to workshops. Peer Experts Ray and Erich McEnroe of McEnroe Organics hosted the first New York workshop.
Massachusetts: Sumner Martinson, Organics Director, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, has been the primary active Team member for the State. He was instrumental in helping to determine the logistics, date, agenda, and speakers for both workshops held in Massachusetts. He also reviewed the documents NERC developed for the project, and provided input into additional resources contained on the Toolkit. A conference call was held on February 1, 2010; email and telephone dialogues were held with New England Small Farm Institute and Team Member prior to first workshop. Ongoing telephone and email dialogue with Team Member for planning of second and third workshops to occur in early spring 2011. Gerard Kennedy, an Agricultural Specialist and Project Team member, posted the announcement for the workshop on the MA Department of Agricultural Resources weekly marketing report.
New Jersey: Original Team Members have provided no assistance on the project despite repeated contacts by NERC staff. However, to begin organizing the workshop in New Jersey, NERC staff contacted Joanna Dillon, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Northeast Organic Farming Association of NJ, who agreed to co-host the workshop for New Jersey. She has been instrumental in helping to gain speakers for the event, the venue, registration, additional logistics, and conducting outreach. Additionally, Michael L. Westendorf, Ph.D., PAS, Extension Specialist in Animal Sciences, Rutgers University provided assistance in formulation of the agenda and ideas for potential speakers. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection staff also actively participated in formation of the Workshop, along with Erich Bremer, Supervisor of the Organic Certification Program for New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
New Hampshire: Richard B. Uncles, Director, Division of Regulatory Services, Department of Agriculture, and New Hampshire Peer Expert was contacted for input about the workshop to be held in New Hampshire in 2011. He also received notification of the Compost Marketing Webpage on the NERC Website. NERC Staff also preliminarily contacted NOFA New Hampshire about hosting the compost marketing workshop for that state in 2011.
Resource Materials and Toolkit
Extensive research was conducted on composting and marketing in order to compile the three documents on compost marketing developed by NERC staff. In March 2010, the documents—“Making Your Compost Product Work for You,” “Model Marketing Plan Template,” and “Compost Marketing Resource List”—were finalized for inclusion in the Resource Toolkit. An additional document—“Word of Mouth Marketing Concepts”—was developed by Team Peer Expert, Bill Obear from Bear Path Farm Compost. (See Documents attached) These documents were provided in hard copy to all workshop participants, put into the Resource Toolkit, and posted on NERC’s Compost Marketing Webpage (www.nerc.org/compost_marketing/). Through an extensive search on the Internet and various technical journals, as well as consultation with project Team Members, hundreds of articles and technical writings were obtained on compost marketing, general marketing techniques, and general compost operations for inclusion on the Resource Toolkit provided to workshop participants. Additional documents continue to be added to the Toolkit on an ongoing basis. In addition to distribution to workshop participants, beneficiaries unable to attend the workshop have been emailed or mailed documents. NERC’s Compost Marketing Webpage link has also been sent to numerous inquirers, along with posted in all announcements about the project.
March 2010 – 60 CDs distributed to NY Workshop participants.
April 2010 – 45 CDs distributed to MA Workshop participants.
June 2010 – NERC produced documents, Farm Peer Expert document, and Workshop presentations posted on New NERC “Compost Marketing” Webpage. Update to NERC’s Northeast Compost and Fertilizer Regulations completed and posted on NERC Website.
December 2010 – Resource Toolkits prepared for January 2011 New York Workshop.
Workshop Outreach/Farmer Contact
Contact lists of farmers around the Northeast have been compiled for New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, with additional farmers and agricultural contacts added regularly. Lists include farm operations from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Maryland, Maine, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. Additional contacts will continue to be added.
In January 2010, more than 300 emails of the workshop flier were sent directly to farm operators; farm associations; Agricultural Extension; all NY State Soil and Water Conservation District Offices; and other agricultural entities requesting attendance, posting, and distribution of the announcement for New York Compost Marketing Workshop held March 30, 2010. An additional 30 farm operations were notified by mail. (Fliers attached.)
In January and February 2010, more than 100 emails of the workshop flier were sent directly to farm operators, farm associations, Agricultural Extension, MA Conservation District Offices, and other agricultural entities requesting attendance, posting, and distribution of the announcement for Massachusetts Compost Marketing Workshop held April 7, 2010. A bulletin was also posted on the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Farm/Market Report by a project Peer Expert. As the workshop was conducted in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Recycling Association’s 10th Annual Organics Summit, the workshop was heavily promoted by both MASSDEP and MassRecycle on their Websites, emails, press releases, and additional outreach.
In November 2010, more than 300 emails of workshop flier sent directly to farm operators; farm associations; Agricultural Extension; all NY State Soil and Water Conservation District Offices; and other agricultural entities requesting attendance, posting, and distribution of the announcement for New York Compost Marketing Workshop to be held January 12, 2011 at Cornell University. To date 45 people have registered (room capacity) for the workshop, with a waiting list of seven.
In November and December 2010, more than 225 emails of workshop flier sent directly to farm operators; farm associations; Rutgers Agricultural Specialists/Extension; New Jersey State Soil and Water Conservation District Offices; and other agricultural entities requesting attendance, posting, and distribution of announcement for New Jersey Compost Marketing Workshop to be held January 28, 2011. As the workshop is being conducted in conjunction with the NOFA NJ Winter conference, the workshop is also being heavily promoted on their Website, email lists, and other outreach.
Several NERC Email Bulletins (distribution 600):
March 2010 – Make Your Compost Product Work for You! FREE Compost Marketing Workshop/Field Days
June 2010 – Making Your Compost Product Work for You!
June 2010 – Compost Marketing Web Page Posted
July 2010 – Organics & Fertilizer Resource Document Updated
December 2010 – FREE Compost Marketing Workshop/Field Day
Article in the Allentown Examiner (New Jersey), titled “Organic and sustainable agriculture event in Princeton,” included information about the Compost Marketing Workshop to be held January 29, 2011.
Several calendar listings for all workshops were posted on the SARE Website, NOFA, and other agricultural Websites.
Two Workshop/Field Days Held
Two Compost Marketing Workshops have been held; two additional workshop dates have been set for January 2011 (one in New York; one in New Jersey). Two additional workshops are in planning stages for Massachusetts, to be held in early spring 2011. A workshop in New Hampshire is in the preliminary discussion phase for March 2011. (See agendas attached for the first two workshops.) All workshops feature Peer Expert speakers and compost experts. Presentations are done in PowerPoint and posted to the NERC Compost Marketing Webpage. A Roundtable is also conducted during the all day workshops, followed by a tour of a compost site. All participants receive hard copies of the NERC compost marketing documents, a CD Resource Toolkit, workshop agenda, and a questionnaire to complete. (See attached participant questionnaire and questionnaire responses received by participants in New York and Massachusetts workshops.)
On March 30, 2010, a workshop was held in Millerton, New York, hosted by Team Expert Members McEnroe Organics. Fifty-six (56) people participated in the Workshop and received the Resource Toolkit (33 farmers; 10 agricultural specialists). Fifteen participants returned completed questionnaires; nine farmers stated interest in possible technical assistance for compost marketing.
On April 7, 2010, a workshop was held at the New England Small Farm Institute in Belchertown, Massachusetts. Forty-three (43) people participated in the Workshop and received the Resource Toolkit (19 farmers; 7 agricultural specialists). Nineteen participants completed questionnaires; eight farmers stated interest in possible technical assistance.
Farmer Technical Assistance in Compost Marketing Plan Development
Eight on-farm visits were completed to initiate technical assistance in developing marketing plans. Market plan development is in progress for these, with anticipated completion in February 2011. Ongoing contact with beneficiaries is in progress and resources provided upon request. Four additional farm visits have been arranged for New York in Mid-January 2011.
March 30, 2010 – Laurel Brook Farm in Connecticut
June 9, 2010 – Hilltop Hanover Farm in New York
June 9, 2010 – Collins Compost in Connecticut
August 17, 2010 –Tripp’s Dairy Farm in Massachusetts
August 17, 2010 –Newland Farm in Massachusetts
August 17, 2010 –Aquidneck Farm in Portsmouth, RI
September 16, 2010 – Holiday Farm in Massachusetts
September 16, 2010 – Gray Craig Farm in Massachusetts
- Workshop Agenda MA1
- Workshop Agenda NY2
- Questionnaire Responses, MA1
- New York Workshop
- Massachusetts Workshop, compost site
- Model Marketing Plan Template
- Massachusetts Compost Marketing Workshop 1 Flier
- Workshop Agenda NY1
- Questionnaire Responses, NY1
- New York Compost Marketing Workshop 2 Flier
- Workshop Questionnaire
- Compost Marketing Tips
- Compost Marketing Resource List
- Word of Mouth Marketing Concepts
- New York Compost Marketing Workshop 1 Flier
- New Jersey Compost Marketing Workshop Flier
- Workshop Agenda NJ
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Response to the outreach conducted for the workshops held in New York and Massachusetts was extremely successful. Email outreach and Web postings proved effective at reaching farmer beneficiaries, as well as leading to multiple postings by agricultural specialists to their email listservs, Websites, and blogs.
The participation in the workshops has been much higher than originally anticipated. Although the workshops are geared toward farmers, project Team Members did not want to limit participation to the workshops. Additional participants included private and municipal compost facility operators. The wide variety of participants in the workshops resulted in increased knowledge and a wealth of information shared with all participants during the networking and Roundtable opportunities. Participants have come from multiple states to attend the workshops (New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Vermont). In addition to the workshop participants, inquiries about the project and resources have come from around the country.
Agricultural Expert responses to requests for speaking at the workshop were favorable for Massachusetts and New York. It has been more difficult to gather presenters for the workshop in New Jersey. Part of this is due to date conflicts; however, there are fewer compost operations in New Jersey (due to the regulatory environment there) so this has also contributed to the lack of support. This workshop has been broadened to focus on mulch as well as compost in order to get an appropriate professional speaker from the field. Rutgers Agricultural Experts have also been helpful in their willingness to speak at the event.
Workshop attendees were very positive in their review of the Workshops and Toolkit Resources. All presenters were highly qualified and made outstanding presentations. Participants were engaged and especially noted the benefits of the Roundtable discussion part of the Workshops.
On-farm visitations have proven to be an effective means of viewing the compost operation to gather information for the marketing plans and discuss the goals and plans of each farm operator. Additionally, these visits have served to spark immediate discussion on ideas for improving the operations and marketing techniques.
1 Winter St.
Office Phone: 6172925969
SUNY Cobleskill, Agricultural Engineering Dept.
115 Curtis-Mott Hall
Cobleskill, NY 12043
Office Phone: 5182555691
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Suite 500, 251 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02114
Office Phone: 6176261773
Kreher’s Poultry Farms/Kreher’s Compost
5411 Davison Rd.
Clarence, NY 14031
Office Phone: 7167596802
120 Chester Road Derry
Derry, NH 03038
Office Phone: 6034325263
Watts Family Farm
23 Falmouth Sandwich
Sandwich, MA 02571
Office Phone: 5084773302
Mass Natural Fertilizer Co., Inc.
65 Bean Porridge Hill Rd.
Westminster, MA 01473
Office Phone: 9788740744