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Is city compost organic?

 
Rick Larson
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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They take in all manner of yard wastes from citizens and shred it into piles and allow it to compost. Do you think there are any chemical residues in this material to worry about?
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I guess that it depends on many factors.

Some communities are 'greener' than others. But there will always be that certain group that dump chemicals on their lawns, gardens, and yes, even their driveway that drains onto their lawn. A lot of that 'goop' will neutralize in time: oxidation, and heat. Some will persist.

I believe that the bottom line if you can't produce enough of your own, is "How choosy are you?" Even if you produce your own, you may be subjected to a neighbor's overspray, road traffic, 'acid rain' and other factors. Some people refuse to bring in outside resources, while others actively seek them out. Each and every one of us must decide where to draw the line. Where is your comfort zone? Even the worst city made compost will produce healthier food products than you are likely to find in a supermarket.

 
Tyler Taglieri
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Location: Lancaster, PA
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I recently had this same question, and I went to a certified organic farmer that I am friends with to ask him about this, and apparently it is considered organic. From what I understand, the length of time that they let it actually sit and compost kind of breaks down any chemicals that may have been transferred off of a lawn. According to his certifier, it is okay to use that compost on his farm.

Take this with a grain of salt though, as I am not a farmer myself, and this is simply what I retained from a close farmer friend of mine. If anyone else has information beyond that, I would love to find more out about that for sure.
 
Ken Peavey
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NOP rules specify that certified organic, and documented ingredients be used in producing certified organic compost. Also, the method of production must be monitored and recorded, particularly the temperature, and all records kept on site for several years.

Because city compost is produced with yard debris, and the origin of that debris is not certified/documented, and because homeowners often spray for everything under the sun, and municipalities often have insect abatement programs, it can be assumed the city compost is not going to be certified organic. If you do find certified organic municipal compost, questioning the reputability of the certifying agent would be in order.

Now...if the city does not add chemicals or MSW, they can describe it as 'All Natural', however, using the stuff on a certified organic farm should invalidate that farms certification.
In a perfect world.

At any time, a buyer from a certified organic grower may ask to see the growers organic certification, that certification shall be presented immediately. It is common for a grower to display his certificate publicy, much like a liquor license. I have encountered growers at farmers markets with photocopies available. This is also acceptable. When in doubt, ask to see certification. If a grower does not produce the certification when asked, it is a violation of NOP rules.

There is much misunderstanding about what is organic. Some believe it is a Description. The fact of the matter is the word Organic can not be used in commercial agriculture in any way unless the product is Certified Organic. Now, some states will allow or overlook this rule if annual sales are less than $5000/year. This presents a situation which is easily corrupted.

Certified Organic compost is out there, and commands a premium price, $60-$100 per cubic yard vs $20-$35 for uncertified. Inputs must be documented. If inputs come from cows, those cows must be certified organic. Their feed must be certified organic. If inputs are gathered, the land upon which the inputs are gathered must be certified organic.


 
Tyler Taglieri
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Location: Lancaster, PA
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Ken Peavey wrote:NOP rules specify that certified organic, and documented ingredients be used in producing certified organic compost. Also, the method of production must be monitored and recorded, particularly the temperature, and all records kept on site for several years.

Because city compost is produced with yard debris, and the origin of that debris is not certified/documented, and because homeowners often spray for everything under the sun, and municipalities often have insect abatement programs, it can be assumed the city compost is not going to be certified organic. If you do find certified organic municipal compost, questioning the reputability of the certifying agent would be in order.

Now...if the city does not add chemicals or MSW, they can describe it as 'All Natural', however, using the stuff on a certified organic farm should invalidate that farms certification.
In a perfect world.




My initial thinking was exactly that because I know for a fact that they have to follow strict guidelines for their compost piles. Maybe it was a simple misunderstanding on my part then! They are a dedicated crew of organic farmers, so there's no way that can be the case!

Thanks for the insight Ken! I'm looking into the NOP Regulations now!
 
Rick Larson
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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Ok Ken, thanks.

I have two more questions. Do you think this material is ok to use otherwise? Is there a list of certified organic growers that sell compost?
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Ken Peavey wrote:NOP rules specify that certified organic, and documented ingredients be used in producing certified organic compost. Also, the method of production must be monitored and recorded, particularly the temperature, and all records kept on site for several years. ... There is much misunderstanding about what is organic. Some believe it is a Description. The fact of the matter is the word Organic can not be used in commercial agriculture in any way unless the product is Certified Organic. Now, some states will allow or overlook this rule if annual sales are less than $5000/year. This presents a situation which is easily corrupted.


This is all very sad. We've been organic for decades, long before Big Ag and the Gubbermint stole the term Organic and said we can't use it. We are still organic. We just can't say we are organic. Meanwhile, my cousin who has a chicken CAFO a.k.a. factory farm where the birds never see the light of day or a blade of grass gets to call his farm Certified Organic because he feeds Certified Organic Feed. It is a corruption of the concept to let a factory farm like his be called organic but not a truly pastured farm like ours. This is the evil of Big Government in the pockets with Big Ag.

Certified Organic is a farce.
 
                        
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Location: San Diego
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Walter Jeffries wrote:
Ken Peavey wrote:NOP rules specify that certified organic, and documented ingredients be used in producing certified organic compost. Also, the method of production must be monitored and recorded, particularly the temperature, and all records kept on site for several years. ... There is much misunderstanding about what is organic. Some believe it is a Description. The fact of the matter is the word Organic can not be used in commercial agriculture in any way unless the product is Certified Organic. Now, some states will allow or overlook this rule if annual sales are less than $5000/year. This presents a situation which is easily corrupted.


This is all very sad. We've been organic for decades, long before Big Ag and the Gubbermint stole the term Organic and said we can't use it. We are still organic. We just can't say we are organic. Meanwhile, my cousin who has a chicken CAFO a.k.a. factory farm where the birds never see the light of day or a blade of grass gets to call his farm Certified Organic because he feeds Certified Organic Feed. It is a corruption of the concept to let a factory farm like his be called organic but not a truly pastured farm like ours. This is the evil of Big Government in the pockets with Big Ag.

Certified Organic is a farce.


I have to respectfully disagree. There was good reason to require certification. When organic vegetables first began to catch on all too many factory farms were selling their culls and calling them organic. It had to be controlled.
 
Nicole Castle
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Location: Madison, AL
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Rick Larson wrote:Do you think this material is ok to use otherwise? Is there a list of certified organic growers that sell compost?


I think the answer is just "it depends." Here, the city compost is just yard debris; mostly old leaves. They just pile it up but it does get hot. So I have no problem using it. Although it's not the greatest quality, it makes a fine top dressing, at least one I pick the trash out of it..

You city may have a different recipe. Some cities include treated sewage. I think the thing for you do so is find out what exactly the program is in your city, and then decide.
 
John Polk
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Probably not a lot of 'Certified Organic' growers selling compost.
They are most likely using all they produce on their own crop lands.

It would take a tremendous amount of biomass to produce a significant quantity of finished product.
Unless you are willing to import something, it could take years to accomplish your goals.
That is where each of us needs to make the decision as to what we want/need.

Personally, I have no qualms about importing some either finished compost, or the materials to make it.
It may not be 'perfect', but it certainly beats what most of us have to start with.
Building soil takes time. How long are you willing to wait to get 'suitable' soil?

Philosophically, I feel that if nobody bought it, they would quit making it...to the landfill it'd go.

 
Rick Larson
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Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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Questioned the manager today who told me the compost is 100% yard waste from the city. He thought the worst thing in the mix might be dog waste. It was interesting he told another customer that the compost needed to be mixed with soil. I never heard that before.

The cost is $11.75 a yard, the the bobcat driver is generous filling my entire pickup truck six foot box. I am using the stuff to add to my hugelkulturs - that seem to be popping up all over my property!
 
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