Protecting Water Quality and Promoting Economic Efficiency at Agricultural Composting Facilities

2011 Annual Report for OW10-329

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2010: $49,115.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Nick Andrews
Oregon State University

Protecting Water Quality and Promoting Economic Efficiency at Agricultural Composting Facilities


This project seeks to assist farmers in meeting state composting regulations as implemented by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). So far we have held one Farmer Focus Session. We have reviewed existing literature on good management practices (GMPs) for composters and are nearing completion of the first draft our GMP manual. We have also developed a project website at: and have drafted an expanded resources section for the website, which will be launched online by the end of the project and include the GMP manual. We are conducting a survey of agricultural composters in Oregon that will inform the final GMP manual and provide insight into agricultural composting in Oregon.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The objectives from the proposal were refined in the 2010 annual report. Our main activities now: 1) Conduct a participatory process to build trust and increase knowledge sharing among farmers, compost facility regulators, compost industry consultants and Extension faculty; 2) Collect collaborative on-farm survey data to inform development of BMPs which will be written in collaboration with farmers, regulators and composting consultants; 3) Publish agricultural composting BMPs for Oregon; these BMP’s will also be written with input from experts in Washington State.

1) Participatory Process: We have convened one facilitated Farmer Focus Session. In the winter of 2012/13, we will conduct a composting workshop that will address good composting practices for protecting water quality and producing good quality compost for various on-farm uses. The GMP manual is also being drafted and reviewed using a participatory process. The outline was developed in collaboration with Extension faculty, regulators and composting consultants, and it incorporated interests expressed at the first farmer focus session. We have decided to solicit additional farmer input when the draft GMP manual is complete and incorporate their comments into the final draft.

2) On-farm Survey Data: In collaboration with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), we are identifying agricultural composters to participate in an on-farm or telephone survey about their composting facility. The survey will be reviewed by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure compliance. Project partners will review the questionnaire, and on-site test interviews will be conducted with on-farm composters. The survey will be used to inform regulators, agricultural composters and extension agents during development of the GMP manual.

3) Publish agricultural composting BMPs: project partners will work together to outline and draft a GMP manual. The manual is including information from the scientific and Extension literature, composting consultants collaborating on the project and insights gained during the on-farm survey.

4) Outreach: The GMP manual will be published through OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications (EESC) and will be available online through the OSU Extension Publications catalog. A project website is being developed on the OSU Small Farms website that will include lists and descriptions of agricultural composting resources and the new OSU GMP manual. The composting workshop will be open to farmers not participating in the project so that project information can be shared more widely.


1) We held the first Farmer Focus Session on February 25, 2011. Speakers included: Nick Andrews (OSU Extension), Bob Barrows (Oregon Department of Environmental Quality), Wym Matthews (Oregon Department of Agriculture), Jeff Gage (Compost Design Services), Lynn Larsen (Benton County NRCS) and Wali Via (Winter Green Farm). The second workshop is planned for the winter of 2012/13.

2) The survey questionnaire has been submitted for review by the IRB. They determined that the survey is exempt from full IRB review. The initial questionnaire was developed in consultation with project partners and revised during several initial on-farm interviews. A data entry spreadsheet has been developed and survey responses have been entered. We are now finalizing the survey questionnaire and data entry spreadsheet to synchronize the questionnaire and data entry spreadsheet with each other and facilitate interpretation of the results. Agricultural composters have been identified from OSU Extension clientele and the lists of agricultural composters registered with ODA and DEQ. This list is being used to identify the final list of additional growers to be interviewed.

3) Regulatory agencies, farmers, compost consultants and extension agents collaboratively developed the outline for the GMP manual. It currently consists of five sections which include: 1) Getting Started, 2) Site Selection, 3) Facility Layout and Design, 4) The Composting Process and 5) Managing Water and Leachate. Our current plan is to publish these as a series of fact sheets through OSU EESC. The composting consultants and Extension faculty involved in the project have drafted initial content for each of these sections. A technical writer has contracted to edit the draft content so that it is ready for submission to EESC, peer-review and review by selected farmer collaborators.

4) The initial project website has been launched online with some content ( An enhanced website with a more extensive resource list with short descriptions of the resources has been drafted and will be posted online. The website will include links to the GMP manual when it is published via EESC.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Expected outcomes include: 1) Increased farmer understanding of water quality risks associated with composting and practical methods for mitigating these risks; 2) Improved regulatory understanding of the limitations and opportunities for managing environmental risk on agricultural composting facilities; 3) Improved research-based understanding of methods to minimize the potential for water pollution at agricultural composting sites.


Peter Moon
Compost Consultant
O2 Compost
312 Maple Ave., Suite C
Snohomish, WA 98290
Office Phone: 3605688085
Jeff Gage
Compost Consultant
617 Sherman St. SW
Olympia, WA 9850-5454
Office Phone: 3609570900
David Brown
Mustard Seed Farms
7300 McKay Rd.
St. Paul, OR 97137
Office Phone: 5036337333
Dr. Dan Sullivan
Extension Agent
OSU Department of Crop & Soil Science
3017 Ag & Life Science Building
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97333
Office Phone: 5417375715
Nick Andrews
Extension Agent
OSU North Willamette Research & Extension Center
15210 NE Miley Rd.
Aurora, OR 97002
Office Phone: 5036781264
William Matthews
CAFO Team Leader
Oregon Department of Agriculture
635 Capitol St. NE
Salem, OR 97301
Office Phone: 5039864792
Bob Wilt
Wilt Farms
31567 Highway 99W
Corvallis, OR 97333
Office Phone: 5417520460
Bob Barrows
Oregon DEQ
165 East 7th, Suite 100
Eugene, OR 97401
Office Phone: 5419864792
Brennan McMillen
Western Oregon Organic Farms
15074 Arndt Rd. NE
Aurora, OR 97002
Office Phone: 5036785056
John Eveland
Gathering Together Farm
25159 Grange Hall Rd.
Philomath, OR 97370
Office Phone: 5419294289
Wali Via
Winter Green Farm
89762 Poodle Creek Rd.
Noti, OR 97461
Office Phone: 5419351920