[Market-farming] Re: bulk compost, peat, etc.
roger69 at yahoo.com
Fri Jan 9 19:09:11 EST 2004
I live in Sonoma County, California. As part of a composting class I
took at our junior college this fall, we toured the facilities of
Sonoma Compost is a pioneer in municipal composting. They have been in
operation at the Sonoma County landfill since the early 1990s, and
process upwards of 200 tons of raw material per day, delivered by
curbside yard waste compost programs in Sonoma County as well as
Will Baks, the guy who pioneered this program, gave the tour. Will has
had to deal with two major problems with his composting operation in
the last few years. The first has been the spead throughout California
of Sudden Oak Death, a plant pathogen called Phytophthora ramorum.
The second and potentially much more serious problem surfaced in
February of 2002 when it was found that clopyralid, a widely used
herbicides in landscaping, survived the composting process at Sonoma
As Will explained, the process at Sonoma Compost is very managed, with
temperature monitoring to insure that temperatures are maintained above
140 degrees for a minimum of 5 days. This process previously has been
shown to reduce the complex carbon chains of common pesticides,
herbicides and other chemicals.
Again, as Will explained, complex carbon chains are a very nice meal
for the organisms that populate hot compost piles. Sonoma Compost has
regular testing of their finished composed for chemicals, and prior to
this point, had never had any problems.
The problem turned out to be the clopyralid, because of its unique
chemical structure, does not break down after 5 days of 140 degree
composting. Rather, it requires 10-14 days of those temperatures.
If it is processed for 5 days, the chemical actually becomes MORE
concentrated. Will was instrumental in getting the California state
government to restrict use of the chemical and to get landscapers in
Sonoma County to stop using it altogether.
The point of this long ramble is this: if you are making compost using
the hot pile method, turning it daily and monitoring the temperature to
make sure you have at least 5 days of 140 degrees, you can compost
almost ANYTHING. That includes raw materials that could have chemicals
Having said that, it's preferable to find sources of raw materials that
don't have chemicals applied to them, but if that is all you can find,
you CAN make safe usable compost.
Weeks Gardens - http://www.weeksgardens.com
> Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2004 14:31:54 EST
> From: OakCamp2 at aol.com
> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] bulk compost, peat, etc.
> To: market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org
> While you are keeping your eyes out for sources of organic material
> compost, ask what is in everything you get. You will only want
> vegetative compost-
> stuff that comes from other plant material and is free of pesticides
> herbicides. A lot of the stuff coming from lawn mowing companies
> will probably
> have pesticides in it. You should check the sources of everything
> you are
> going to put on your wonderful veggie transplants. Any good compost
> supplier will
> have a chemical analysis done on their finished compost, so ask to
> see it.
> Look for the unobvious results (they will highlight the NPK results)
> selenium, aluminum, other heavy metals because they are indicators of
> problems with
> the compost.
> Barb Birkinbine
> Oak Camp Herb Farm
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