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Compost

 
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Compost, that is good quality, locally sourced compost, is becoming a sought after commodity, in the east anyway, and suppliers are in short supply.

My two suppliers are both farmers; one is in a very affluent neighborhood, has spent a great deal of money on infrastructure, and has gotten USDA organic certification and is getting $45 dollars a yard, the other is upstate in dairy country, having his town dump ALL their leaves there for free (they're thrilled) and simply adding manure from his 300+ herd, and getting $21 a yard (guess who I get more from?). Still with not a lot of work, not a huge amount of machinery (the second guy bodged his own screening mill together out of old machinery he had around; 1st guy rents a tub to come in, a LOT of the added expense, hence cost) but both turn out exceptional product I gladly pay extra for...

Just a thought...

HG
 
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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as part of the 2009 north-east permaculture convergence, some of us got an early tour to Vermont Compost Company, and met with the owner, karl hammer. it's a wholly organic working farm,a really great operation !!! karl shared a wealth of information and was a swell guy too.

folks should definitely check them out if you're up that way.
 
                    
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Are the cows from the second compost source wormed?  A bunch of the medications given to animals do not break down and can cause harm to soil life.  You get what you pay for. 
 
Scott Reil
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Jack tells me he only worms at sign of actual need, not prophylactically, which in the scope of the hundreds of tons of production is a minimally significant input. I have looked at his stuff under a microscope and find it amazingly diverse and prolific...

S
 
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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I've found compost in the $25-30/cuyd range.  Organic compost is just about impossible to find in any quantity, and $45/cuyd would be a steal.  I think $60-75 would be more in line with a fair price.

If you intend to selling the stuff by the yard, a bobcat or front end loader would make the job a whole lot easier when turning windrows or loading trucks/trailers.  Not everyone has a truck or trailer which makes delivery an opportunity.

For the backyard hobbyist, smaller quantities would be in order.  Sold by the 5 gallon bucket for a buck, it works out to about $50/cuyd.  I've considered this as part of my farm operation.  The buckets can be refilled, customers can bring their own or buy one of mine.  Let the customer pack that bucket just as full as they can.

I get spent mushroom compost from Quincy Farms in Tallahassee, $25/cuyd, available from a local vendor.  Because it has been used for growing mushrooms, it has been heat sterilized.  I add it to my backyard heap, mix it up, let it cook for another month to rebuild the microbe population.

 
steward
Posts: 32843
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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With all of the problems in non-organic compost, it does seem that one could make quite the killing selling super high quality compost.  You could even use grocery sacks and sell it for ten bucks a bag. 

 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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I noticed the last batch of compost I bought was different from what I've bought before.  Did a little poking around.  Seems while I was up north the mushroom farm closed. 

Found a couple of other producers in the state.  One does waste wood (lot clearing, tree removal) and all vegetative ingredients, the other uses MSW.  Kinda thin pickins. 
 
Scott Reil
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Like I said, increasing demand, decreasing supply. My economics larnin' tells me the time is right...

S
 
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alot of wormers and medications are wholly broken down by the animals own system and do not pass through, others can pose problems. Ivermectin is a bad one for dung beetles. It would really pay to do your research and find out what is being used, what is ok and what is not. this could give you exceptional product and increase your access to material.

I am thinking along the lines of the "scale" of organic such as we have discussed elsewhere.

#1 - from exclusively organic operations
#2 from farms that worm and use medications judiciously, infrequently and use products that are as freindly as possible to the soil. maybe incorporate some testing of hte finished product.
#3 regular compost with who knows what residues in it.

having "grades" of compost that have prices that reflect it creates a bigger market. 
 
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That seems like a great idea.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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Leah:
#4 Compost produced with Municipal Solid Waste or other materials not suitable for food production applications.  This grade would still be suitable for bioremediation, fiber crops, ornamentals, use along roads and highways, and landscaping.

Compost production on a commercial scale often includes a screening process.  The compost is run through big heavy screen to sift out the course materials and produce a more uniform product.  I've seen stuff screened all the way down to 1/2"-very nice stuff.  I've built 2 compost sifters using 1/4" construction fabric to screen the stuff for suitable use in potting mix. 

2 parts: Frame and Box
The frame in brown is built out of studs for strength.  The diagram does not include as many corner braces as it needs to take the beating,  Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.  It is also missing a couple of horizontal boards towards the top.  The frame needs to be built wide enough that spinning the box does not hit the upper horizontal studs.  You are on your own for measurements.  The axis is not connected in any way.  If you need to move the rig, the box will lift out.  Be sure one side of the frame is open to allow easy removal of sifted product.

The box is plywood on the left and right sides connected with studs, yellow, at the corners and where the mesh turns inward.  A hole in the center for a dowel or shovel handle, red, serves as the axis of rotation.  The whole thing spins, sifting the compost as you go.  Turn it in one direction it will sift, turn it the other direction it will drop out the course material.  Just be sure to clear out the fine stuff before you dump.

The grey bars are cleats on the inside of the box sides.  These are mirrored on the other side.  This is what I staple the mesh against to hold it in place.  I also staple it to the studs at the corners. 

The little purple dot is a hole for a nail on a string.  Shove the nail in the hole when you go to fill the box.

If the is 2'x2'x2', it will be managable by most people.  The construction fabric can be purchased 2 feet wide, making for a nice fit.  Wire clippers or a utility knife can cut the length of mesh.


Other options
-Add a couple more stud in the center of the sides of the box to give you more handles when spinning.
-different boxes can be built with different screen material.  Chicken wire or 1/2" mesh come to mind.  NOTE: the chicken wire is not particularly strong and wont hold up, but its pretty cheap.
-put a couple of wheels from an old mower on the frame for easier moving.
-If you paint the box, do it before adding the mesh.  Check Home Depot or Lowe's for OOPS paint, about $5/gallon.   Use exterior paint or stain to protect the wood
-If spare plywood was available to nail onto the bottom, it would keep the legs in place and make for easy shoveling.  Even if you put buckets underneath to fill as you go, some stuff will miss the buckets.
-If more plywood is available, you could enclose 2 sides of the frame to contain the stuff better.  This would replace the horizonal studs and give you a much sturdier rig.  Keep the side you stand on to spin clear so you don't smash your hands.

USES
-sifting compost for potting mix
-sifting firewood ash to remove nails
-a solid wood box with a section of stud thrown in can help pod dry beans or peas.
-use spools instead of boxes to roll up hoses/rope/barbed wire

Its a handy thing.  If built from scrap material, the cost is low.


Compost-sifter.JPG
[Thumbnail for Compost-sifter.JPG]
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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Since this is the farm income forum...
The rig allows you to market sifted compost.  You can run it through the rig or let your customers use it.
This will work on worm castings no problem at all.

I suppose if you had a rig up and running, you could sell them as well.  Tell the buyer you can have one for them next Tuesday.  What do you figure?  About a hundred bucks?  I wouldn't figure on paying my bills this way, but maybe you can move a couple of them out the door.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Excellent design! There need to be more spirals in the things people build, they're so useful...the forward/reverse function is really handy.

Any particular reason the ends of the frame aren't shaped like this (axle in red)?
frame.PNG
[Thumbnail for frame.PNG]
 
Ken Peavey
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Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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Your A-Frame design has the advantage of using less wood and weighing less as a result.  Bracing the sides together can be done over the top of the rig to keep the bottom clear for removing the sifted material.

The design I put together is all straight cuts.  Makes it easy for someone with limited carpentry skills to measure and cut.  Bracing the sides together can be done at the top on the side away from the user, gives the thing some strength.  All the studs line up making screwing the thing together a breeze. 

My first sifter had no frame.  I had a light pole and a 4x4.  I planted the 4x4 a couple feet in the ground with a hole half way through it, drilled a matching hole in the light pole, then manhandled everything together, filling in the post hole with my foot.  The thing still stands after several years, but the unpainted plywood is falling apart.  Time to make another one.  It has served me well.

In lieu of plywood, any old lumber will do the job just as well.

I use a square box rather than round.  Makes it easier to get the spiral shape and still have an opening big enough to fill with a shovel.  A round box would be possible, could even put a hinged door for filling/emptying.

I build stuff with coated screws rather than nails.  The coating holds up outside.  The screws will hold the lumber together better than nails under the stress of motion.  When I have a hammer in my hand, the only thing I hit regularly is my other hand.

 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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Anyone out there producing and marketing compost?
 
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I have been making indoor worm bins for the winter to sell at our local composting symposium.I'm also a "no weird stuff" vegetable farmer.Now we've built a 60 x 40 pole shed complete with a concrete floor for a year round composting operation.Any suggestions on how to make it more efficient are greatly appreciated.I love the technical drawings you all build but for some reason without pictures I can't wrap my mind around these things.The screen contraption makes sense. I think Will Allen made something with an old dryer. I'm not sure what I'm going to screen with but I'm sure it will be something I find here on this AWESOME site!Thanks for such great ideas.
 
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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What do you guys thinks of working at getting a better shred of the compost material going in rather than sifting a finer product on the outbound? I put my last heap through the wood chipper for the greenhouse an the material came out lovely all those composted balls of rabbit poo and hay turned to textured powder and coir like fibers. In this case is was an afterthought because the chipper needed sharpening and was clogging. But Im setting up for my spring in ground heap and I figure i'll get an even better compost if I shred my material down on the inbound. The shredder size is linked to the scale of the enterprise from the 2 inch branch chipper up to the tub grinder if your looking at 10+ cubic meters. I hated my home built sifter it would take 3 days to sift enough for seed starting but the time it took me to fork dry compost into a chipper was reduced by 10x. I only have about a cubic meter worm farm so i'm a little on the small scale for anything other than on farm applications of worm tea in elicit amounts to increase biological digestion of my sheet mulch. I think there's much more money in a 5 galon bucket of castings if that goes into a 1000 liter tote and get's use in contract spray applications, or weekend live sale of compost tea that can be diluted up to 50:1 post sale. Marketed as a live pro biotic foliar spray that can't be stored but must be used brings in repeat customers. It's not that 45 dollars a yard for compost doesn't sound great but for what I can with compost and worm castings to extend it's primary micro-organismic purpose it seems like you could get allot of mileage out of 5 gallons of high quality castings brewed and sold by the gallon. 5 bux a galon times a 250 gallon/1000 liter tote is good money for your time spent even if you sell compost tea for 2.50. I would much rather have a contract to deliver 1000 litres to a farm or nursery irrigation system for 500 bux though because I can brew 3 times a week and need less customers.

I guess im arguing value adding to the subject of income in worms and compost. I've found it such an effective solution for the economy of my garden that I can afford to experiment with going too far and laying down the maximum in a season until soil maturity.

 
steward
Posts: 7926
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Personally, I don't think it is possible to show a true profit, unless you are importing raw materials to begin with.

An acre of veggies will not provide enough biomass to replenish the nutrients consumed by its crops.
You might be selling compost for a dollar profit, but your soil would be losing its value.

If you have a large stream of biomass that you can bring in for free, or little cost, you could produce a surplus.
Then you would have something to sell.

 
Vicki Boliard
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Can you be more specific about how you brew your tea and your brew cycle? Even under refrigeration is the tea subject to spoilage? Also I've got an enormous comfrey patch. Do you think making a foliar spray or compost mix using them is a good additional income? I sell at to farmers markets per week. One being Tuesday and one being Saturday. What kind of time frame do you suggest to have at least 10 gallons mixed up for each market with more for sale on the farm. I've only got a small worm operation at this time but I'm planning on expanding as the season progresses. I've got my composting shed and I'm planning on keeping it temperate enough year round to keep the worm activity growing. Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated. I've got a small 11 x 12 temperature controlled greenhouse and I'm in the process of inoculating sawdust spawn bags and growing mushrooms indoors. That starts full swing in about two weeks. Right now we are still regulating temperature and humidity.
 
Saybian Morgan
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
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compost tea last 36 hours from when you cut off the air, compost brewing run a max of 36 hours because you run out of food. You put on your brew friday at noon and sell it saturday morning for use by sunday night. As for scale casting tea can be made for any amount you have available from a bucket of water mixed with a cup of castings up to a bucket of castings mix with 250 gals of water. I'm not a big fan of storing worm tea although i did store alot of leach-ate when I had a rain through bin, I find when i live by 36 hours being the brink I have no worries.
I have on of those geo tea brewers now but I started with an air stone like everyone else, I think if I was to do it again I'd have more fun building a flowform aerator but the blower is more tight packaged. I'm also moving into using my blower instead of a shop vac for static aerated composting so it's paying itself off.

Recipe's i've tried allot but if your going to market I'd stay pretty basic till your in the mood to buy a microscope or potentially kills someones plants. Molasses, kelp, fish hydrolosate, humic acid. That's my take no risk recipe but I never follow it unless i've hurt a plant in a previous trial, honestly the only time i ever hurt plants is tripping over the hoses or getting impatient while watering in urine. I hit some point I can reach and then I just start spraying cuzz im sick of being careful, when i get diluted urine on leaves they curl up for a week then come back. Mind you when I pickle urine with Em-1 I can spray all i want and it doesn't hurt leaves, but don't try it unless you know how to say im sorry about this plant.

Home brew for my yard follows the standard 4, but then i go for comfrey juice, whey, horsetail tea, blood, flower, nitrogen fixing bacteria, a packet of " paul staments" fungi beneficials, willow tea, wads of duck shit, coffee grounds. The last two i put in the bag not in the water. These ingredient on there lonesome or in tandem can throw your mixed bacterial or fungal dominant depending on your soil agenda. I've never killed anything from any of this stuff your client may not want mushrooms appearing next year where they inoculated heavily, it's not worth it to do wiggy stuff if your not going to test it for the high quality branding of your product. I brew for 18 to 24 hours depending on the season 36 hours when it's cold like 40-50f.

If you really have that much comfrey I'd powder it and sell it like kelp, I don't think i'll ever feel like i have enough comfrey no matter how much I put in, I'm well over 100 and i still feel itchy that I could use another 100.
 
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We bought our first "homestead" last year, and our greatest focus has ultimately been on developing compost. Yes, we are doing many different things, but most of it comes back to compost. We got miniature cows to produce high-quality manure (due to our research, we believe there is a significant advantage to 3-stomach ruminates producing your manure), and got free-range chickens as part of our IPM (integrated pest management) program, as they help keep worm populations from reinfecting livestock, and are generally not vulnerable to the same types of worms as cattle. That allows us to reduce worm treatments with harsh antibiotics. We test our livestock every 3 months for worms, but do not worm profilactically. On another note, we implemented worm farming to act as a seed microbe population for our compost. Additionally, we use no chemicals on our farm, and purchase only organic produce and meat. We made a compost tea brewer, which seems to have helped significantly, and built a couple of biochar kilns to add biochar and therefore tilth to our compost. We purchased a shredder for our smaller yard waste, and use every bit of newspaper and cardboard that comes into our house in our compost. We acquired a Terramite, basically a miniature backhoe, in large part to turn our compost. Our compost heap has been given the most prime, flat, open area we have close to the house so that it can be turned with our Terramite on a regular basis, and still be accessable to take out kitchen waste. We are even considering biodynamic compost preparations. Yes, we love our compost. :

This has largely to do with the fact that we have no soil. The property we purchased is basically on an ancient sand bar, and due to its slope, it has historically washed away any topsoil the vegetation was able to produce with the first good Florida goose-drowner storm of the spring.

At least in our situation, I don't believe too much emphasis can be put on developing a composting protocol. Not only can we thus insure that it is organic, but we can contribute to its mineral content and structure significantly.
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