Composting as a Component of Sustainable Agriculture: Developing - Delivering Composting Information at a Critical Time

1999 Annual Report for LNE99-125

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $84,513.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $17,959.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Ellen Harrison
Cornell Waste Management Institute

Composting as a Component of Sustainable Agriculture: Developing - Delivering Composting Information at a Critical Time


The Cornell Waste Management Institute will produce a video demonstrating 15 to 18 on-farm composting options and related topics of concern. The video will demonstrate ways to use equipment typically found on farms as well as equipment retrofits. The video will serve as a companion to the popular NRAES On-Farm Composting Handbook; it will be also be used as part of an educational initiative to increase knowledge of composting among farmers and those who advise them.

The overall objective is to work with farmers, agricultural educators, and farm assistance agencies in the Northeast to encourage composting as an economically and environmentally sound component of sustainable farming. Specific project objectives are:

Increase composting on farms as a tool to manage manure, carcasses and off-farm clean organic residuals and to produce a value-added product.

Illustrate the potential for composting of animal manure to address environmental concerns such as nutrient management, water quality, pathogens and odors.

Demonstrate the feasibility of using existing farm equipment to compost on farms.

Develop awareness of the use of composting methods to dispose of animal carcasses and show farmers and their advisors how it can be done.

An advisory committee of agriculture people was recruited to meet the first goal, the production of the video “Farm Based Composting: Manure and More.” The committee includes representatives from different parts of the educational process including: farmers, Cooperative Extension agents, NRCS technicians, and representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation, Empire State Development, Center for Ecological Technology, Farm Bureau, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Northeast SARE, Pro Dairy, and watershed associations. The advisory committee has been guiding the video process and assisting with the implementation of the education and outreach program.

Advisors and participants included Bill Guptill of Toad Hollow Farm, Brian Jerose of Waste Not Solutions, Gary Tennant of Cornell Farm Services, Bill Obear of Bear Path Farm, Tim Smith of Smith Vocational Agricultural High School, Stanley Witkop of Scantic Valley Farm, Ray McEnroe of McEnroe Organic Farm, Jim Foster and Jeff Graves of Vermont Natural Ag Products, Inc., Mark Adams of Adams Farm, Connie and Julie Patterson of Patterson Farm, Fessendan Farm, Robert Aman of Aman Farm, Brett and Hal Kreher of Krehers Egg Farm, and Jeff and Darci Gulliver of Country Butcher.

Farm compost operations were chosen to highlight different technologies, use of equipment, and economic scenarios. Throughout the spring and summer we filmed the different operations; after shooting, video footage was transcribed and the story line was developed. After each story was compiled and edited, narration was written and recorded.

The advisory committee was then convened and 28 people reviewed the video in its initial state. The committee decided after a first look that more information was needed about the farms, type of animal manure, number of animals, technology used, and location. To address this, information was added through on-screen text and graphics that will allow educators to use the video in its entirety or in segments with discussion. In the last touches music was added, sound levels were adjusted, and stories were tightened up.

The video cover and promotional piece is being written and designed, and a draft is being reviewed. By January 2001, videos will be ready for distribution. A promotional plan is being developed and promotion began at the beginning of the project.

Producing the video, convening and engaging the advisory committee, and recruiting farmers to participate in the video started the ball rolling to get the composting information out to the people that needed it. As the video was being produced, CWMI and CET spoke with different groups about the coming resource and scheduled dates where it would be highlighted. Many of these events will reach agricultural advisers. They in turn will be able to get the information to farmers. Farmers will also be reached through events, meetings and articles.

This video provides the opportunity to take farmers and their advisors on virtual field trips and to reach more people with the information. It also allows farmers to learn through their preferred method—seeing for themselves. “Farm Based Composting: Manure and More,” is a 38-minute video that highlights 14 farm operations and six different composting strategies from low-tech to high-tech. Special emphasis was placed on equipment that is already found on farms and can be retrofitted to perform compost tasks. Compost-specific equipment, rent/lease equipment, and high-technology compost operations are also featured. The video illustrates the potential for composting animal manure to address environmental concerns such as nutrient management, water quality, pathogens, and odors; the video will also develop awareness of the use of composting methods to dispose of large animal carcasses. This video can be used in its entirety or as short individual case studies.

A survey of a small number of agricultural educators that have used the video with farmers will be administered in the last part of the project period, and we will be able to get an early assessment of effectiveness of the video.

Impacts and Potential Contributions
Education Outreach Plan: We are just starting to get the video promotion out to the farm/compost audience. Press releases will go out to agriculture and compost newsletters and magazines. Natural Resource Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES) will be the primary distributor of the video and do short- and longer-term promotion. Instead of creating another event that people need to travel to, information is presented at conferences and workshops that groups and associations convene. The outreach plan is as follows:

Video Promotion/Distribution: Notification of availability of the video will be made though a press release. Complimentary copies of the video will be made available to appropriate media such as American Agriculturist, Country Folks, and others. NRAES has agreed to promote and distribute the video as a companion to their On-Farm Composting Handbook. They also plan to coordinate a manure management conference where this and other compost resources will be featured. The Center for Ecological Technology (CET) is a project collaborator is also working to promote this program as it directly supports their current projects.

Conference Presentations and Workshops: Presentations have been made or are planned for extension agents, the NRAES Manure Conference, certified crop advisors, American Meat Processors, NYSERDA, New York Farm Bureau, Poultry Industry Association, American Dairy Science Association, New York Rural Water Association, NRCS, New York Organics Recycling and Compost Council, New York Solid Waste Federation, Bio Cycle, and the National Recycling Coalition.

Publications: Articles are being written for publication in magazines; editors at BioCycle, Resource Recycling, and the Farm Bureau have encouraged submissions. The video will be promoted in extension newsletters and by the Farm Bureau, NRCS and other industry publications.The video will be also be listed on CWMI (, NRAES, SARE, and other websites. It will also be announced through National Extension, CAFO, the U.S. Compost Council, and other list serves as appropriate.

Reported December 2000


John Majercak

[email protected]
Center for Ecological Technology
26 Market St
Northampton, MA 01060
Office Phone: 4135867350
Jean Bonhotal

[email protected]
Extension Associate
Cornell Waste Management Institute
101b Rice Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072558444