Profiles
Installation and construction are complete on a DVO Inc. anaerobic digester at Ar-Joy Farm, a dairy farm in Cochranville, Pennsylvania.

This is DVO's first installation in Pennsylvania, bringing the number of states with a DVO digester to 19. Its patented digester system has also been constructed in six foreign countries.

Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a collection of processes by which naturally occurring microorganisms transform waste into valuable byproducts in a controlled, oxygen-free environment.

DVO's patented Two-Stage Linear Vortex anaerobic digester is unlike any other technology. Traditional AD technologies featuring above-ground tanks are inefficient and costly to operate.

"We are honored to be working with Marilyn and Duane Hershey (owners of Ar-Joy), a couple long admired in their community and acclaimed in the dairy industry for their advocacy and leadership. Marilyn serves as chair of Dairy Management, Inc. and in 2017 was named Dairy Woman of the Year at the World Dairy Expo. Duane serves on the Land O'Lakes Board of Directors," said Steve Dvorak, president of DVO. "We know they are dedicated to environmental sustainability and are proud they chose to implement DVO's digester technology."

The DVO anaerobic digester processes the waste from Ar-Joy's 700 milking cows, as well as local organic waste streams. Currently the farm is adding waste from a potato chip company three times a week and is seeking additional feedstocks for the digester.

The biogas generated from the waste streams is powering a 300-kW gen-set which delivers renewable electricity to the local grid. The farm has a net-metering program with its local utility which allows the farm to lower its electrical costs by off-setting the power from its electrical meters. Any excess generated power not used by the dairy is sold to the utility.

The dairy is utilizing the separated digested solids for bedding, having previously bedded with sand. The digested liquid is stored in a lagoon to be applied as fertilizer on to growing crops, increasing crop yield and reducing the likelihood of nutrient runoff.

"The digester provides us a variety of environmental benefits, such as producing power and recycling waste. A big driver for us was the ability to expand our operation and bring in additional revenue without adding cows," explained Duane Hershey. "The community response to our digester has been real positive. When the neighbors come down and see it, they get excited. They all say we need more of these digesters on farms."

Learn more about DVO's solutions for agricultural wastes and renewable energy here, http://www.dvoinc.com/

Published in Anaerobic Digestion
Chittenango, NY - The dust bowl era in the Midwest displaced many families, including farmers. Edson and Harriet Durfee were one of them. Luckily for New York and Madison County, they and their three children moved back east from Nebraska and settled their dairy farm on 120 acres of river bottom soils and Honeoye hills which fed the appetites of the, then, quiet hamlet of Chittenango.

Going on five generations in the community since then, their dedicated land stewardship, soil conservation and farm management has garnered the coveted 38th annual Conservation Farm of the Year by the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District. | READ MORE
Published in News
Marin County, Calif. - On one organic dairy farm, the feed truck runs on cow power.

"I was able to put together a fully electric truck to feed the cows that's powered by the cow's waste. We claim that's the first one in the world to do that," says Albert Straus, CEO of Straus Family Creamery in Marin County, California.

When cow manure breaks down, it releases methane, a potent global warming gas. But that methane can be captured and used to make electricity. Using technology called a methane digester, Strauss has been converting his cow's manure into energy for the last 14 years. The process produces enough electricity to power the whole farm. And now, that energy is also being used to charge his electric truck. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
Reading, Pennsylvania - All communities depend on clean water and that supply of clean water depends on the actions of members in the community and outside of it.

The small city of Kutztown lies within the Saucony Creek watershed in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The watershed is mostly agricultural, dotted with small family crop and livestock farms, and the activities on these farms affect water supplies near and far.

Saucony Creek itself feeds into Lake Ontelaunee, the water supply for Reading, Pennsylvania. Kutztown gets its water from wells that, because of the soils and geology of the area, are strongly affected by activities on the surrounding landscape.

In the early 2000s, the nitrates in Kutztown's water supply were approaching the maximum safe levels for drinking water. The nitrates were related in large part to farms in the area.

This situation energized a partnership of non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private entities to ensure the safety of the city's water supply, in part by helping local farmers install conservation practices that protect and improve water quality. As part of this effort, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) delivered additional funding for voluntary conservation assistance through its National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). 

NRCS Collaborates with Conservation-Minded Farmers
For years, dairy farmer Daniel Weaver faced challenges that made his life harder and affected water quality in his area. He hauled manure every day because he had nowhere to store it. And, his cows watered and roamed in a branch to Saucony Creek that runs through his property. This reduced the health of the stream and of his herd. That is before he formed a relationship with NRCS staff at his local USDA Service Center.

With NRCS's help, Weaver was able to implement conservation practices that improve the operations of his farm in a way that also protects the ground and surface water flowing through his property. First, NRCS helped him develop a nutrient management plan for his property. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding, commonly known as EQIP, enabled him to install a manure storage tank that alleviates the need to haul manure daily. The new storage capacity allows him to control the rate and timing of manure application on his farm, which are key factors in achieving healthy soil and clean water. He also says that it has helped him save on labor and fertilizer.

"I think it should be mandatory for farmers to have a manure pit," he said.

Streambank fencing and an animal crossing were installed to keep cows from contaminating streams and creeks that crossed their pastures and therefore the downstream rivers and lakes. In the five years since installation, vegetation has grown on the stream banks, creating a buffer for the stream and the crossing controls the cows' access, thereby limiting pathogens and nutrients from entering the water.

Not too far away, Harlan Burkholder owns and operates a 100-acre row crop and beef cattle farm. He also worked with NRCS and other partners to improve water quality in Saucony Creek. When Burkholder bought his farm in 2005, manure was being stored on the ground near the creek that runs through the property because there was limited space near the barn. He had to spread manure on the fields often to keep it from piling up.

Realizing that it's best to spread manure in the growing season and store it in the winter to avoid runoff, he developed a nutrient management plan. After applying for NRCS financial assistance, he worked with NRCS to co-invest in a manure storage structure. Now, Burkholder is able to store manure over the winter so he can spread it at optimal times.

He is grateful for NRCS's help. "As a beginner, there's no way I could have spent money on something like this," he said.

Burkholder also knows the importance of keeping soil healthy with no-till and cover crops. As a 100-pecent no-till farmer, Burkholder says, "I have no intentions of doing anything else. It's working."

It's working so well that he's sharing his knowledge and experiences with other farmers.

Results
Together, NRCS and its partners have helped more than 20 farmers in the watershed get conservation on the ground. In fact, NRCS has invested more than $2 million in targeted assistance in this area alone.

"The voluntary efforts of these farmers that protect the water in Saucony Creek also has a positive impact on the groundwater in aquifers beneath it," said Martin Lowenfish, the team lead for NRCS's landscape conservation initiatives. "Kutztown is home to 14,000 residents who rely on drinking water from those aquifers."

And, the residents of Kutztown are taking notice. Just two years after the city's water treatment plant was updated with equipment to remove nitrates from the raw water, the plant is running at minimum capacity because the nitrate levels have been reduced by almost half thanks to the conservation efforts of farmers and ranchers upstream. Now, the treatment plant's water is within legal safe drinking water requirements and treatment costs also have been significantly reduced.

This is just one impact among many that show how a little conservation can yield big results for communities downstream.


Published in Profiles
Iowa’s Smith family, owners of SFI Inc, have been on a decades-long quest to prove and demonstrate that it pays to practice good land stewardship that includes manure composting, capturing nutrients before they leave their feedlots, and recycling them as organic fertilizer on their row crops.
Published in Beef
September 26, 2017, Springfield, MA — The winners of the 2017 New England Green Pastures Award were recognized at the Eastern States Exposition on Sept. 15. Honored as Massachusetts Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year was Pine Island Farm of Sheffield, MA, managed by the Aragi family.

Pine Island Farm is a third-generation dairy farm operated by the Aragi family since 1964. Thomas Aragi – Louis Sr.’s father – purchased the original parcel of 179 acres. Today, the farm consists of more than 1,594 acres. The dairy operation is a partnership jointly owned by Louis Aragi Sr. and Louis Aragi Jr. Pine Island Farm houses approximately 1,500 head of dairy cattle. The farm generates approximately 20 million pounds of milk annually. All of the farm’s acreage used is solely for the dairy operation and the needs of the Aragi family. The Aragi’s also rent tillable cropland to provide sufficient feed for the dairy cattle.

Running a successful dairy operation is a challenge. Through thoughtful and creative planning and making solid business decisions, the farm has developed a dairy operation that relies heavily on the farm’s natural resources (landmass and field crops).

The Aragi’s have set their sights on developing an operation that is successful and will support future generations of the Aragi family. They look at opportunities for the farm from all angles and think outside the box in order to take maximum advantage of their available resources and implement those things that will benefit the farm-labor efficiencies, cost savings, and increased profitability. One such opportunity was in 2011 with the installation of a methane digester at the farm both owned and operated by the Aragi’s, that has addressed environmental issues, and created by-products that have been used at the farm reducing operating costs – diversifying the farm product mix and assisting in the sustainability of the farm. The Aragi’s prime focus has been to “mine the farm waste” for conversion into beneficial by-products and effectively use those digested by-products. Investing in this technology and gaining experience with it; and the diversification of the by-products, all have positioned the farm for future benefits ranging from additional revenue streams and labor savings. All of which have laid a foundation for sustainability of the Aragi family farm.

The Green Pasture Award is given every year to one outstanding dairy farm in each of the New England states, with winners evaluated on production records; herd, pasture and crop management; environmental practices; contributions to agriculture and the local community; and overall excellence in dairying.
Published in Dairy
Vermont has recently adopted stiffer manure application rules to try to better control runoff into the state’s largest water feature and tourist attraction, Lake Champlain. As one of the state’s largest manure injection custom applicators, Matthew’s Trucking LLC is doing its part to help farmers better manage farm runoff.
Published in Other
One back surgery and 30 years later, Lee Kinnard, co-owner of Kinnard Farms in Wisconsin, is starting to believe that the dairy has finally put all the pieces in place to streamline recycling of manure-laden bedding sand from their barns.
Published in Dairy
September 20, 2017, Australia – A family-owned piggery in northern Victoria is about to unplug from the grid and rely on a $1 million biogas system for all its power.

The biogas system is expected to save the business operators at Yarrawalla hundreds of thousands of dollars. READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Animal Waste Technology Fund provides grants to companies demonstrating new technologies on farms and providing alternative strategies for managing animal manure.

These technologies can cover a range of innovations – generate energy from animal manure, reduce on-farm waste streams, and repurpose manure by creating marketable fertilizer and other value added products such as compost.

In October, MDA awarded Veteran Compost of Harford County, Maryland, and O2Compost of Washington State a grant for $350,300 to develop a compost demonstration project plus a public education and training facility in Anne Arundel County for livestock farmers.

The project will demonstrate aerated static pile (ASP) composting technology systems at three levels: small scale (one to four horses or livestock equivalents); medium scale: (five to 20); and large scale: (20 to 40).

All three compost systems will be solar powered to demonstrate off-grid sustainability. The medium and large systems will include storage tanks to retain roof water for use in the composting process.

The project will also include formal classes and hands-on workshops, public tours for students in kindergarten through college, and alliances with government agencies and non-profit environmental organizations. In addition, a compost cooperative website will be developed to bring together producers and end users of the finished compost products.

The compost systems that are displayed will be ones that have been in use since 2001. Peter Moon, owner of O2Compost, says he started out in the composting industry in 1989, designing and permitting large-scale municipal green waste systems. Then, in the mid-1990s, he started applying some of the industrial ideas to compost dairy and chicken manure.

After seeing a chicken farm that was composting mortalities that looked tidy but suffered from terrible odor issues, he decided that an aerated bin system was what was needed. It took him a few months to figure out the answer and was convinced that it would work.

“I ended up building a prototype in my back yard because I had to prove to myself that it would work, and it worked way better than I had hoped,” he says.

Today, O2Compost offers what they call Compost Operator Training Programs. They include four basic components – the design of the system, the aeration equipment package, a detailed training manual written in layman’s terms, and unlimited technical support – for a fixed fee.

“It’s this system and three stages of bins that will be on display,” he says. “Although I don’t know of any other company that is offering anything like it, I want to make clear I didn’t invent the concept of aerated composting. Aerated static pile (ASP) composting was first developed in the mid-1970s in Beltsville, Maryland. I just reconfigured it into an aerated bin system.”

When the MDA put out the RFP in 2016, Peter immediately thought of his client and good friend, Justen Garrity, owner of Veteran Company based out of Aberdeen, Maryland. The two had known and worked with each other since 2010 when Justen took Peter’s training program.

Veteran Compost has a 30-acre farm in Aberdeen and is dedicated to employing veterans and their family members and turning food scraps into high-quality compost. The crown jewel of Veteran Compost is its vermicomposting operation –it’s one of the only commercial worm composting operations in Maryland.

Peter approached Justen and suggested that, since the company was located in Maryland, why didn’t they set up a demonstration site with bins and a larger open aerated static pile system and use it to instruct farmers in Maryland and neighboring states. They could come to them, participate in a half-day workshop and then come out to the site and see it, sense it, understand it and learn.

Justen could immediately see the value in this partnership, and so did MDA. In 2016, O2Compost and Veteran Compost received the grant.

The project would already be operational today, except for one snag. Justen and Peter had challenges finding a good site, because people in the area have been reluctant to have a composting site near them because of potential odor issues. This is despite the fact that Justen’s composting facility in Aberdeen has received zero odor complaints from neighbors in the six years that it’s been operating.

“Justen has also had to go through a process with Anne Arundel County to allow for composting on agricultural zone property,” says Peter.

It has taken a long time and numerous public hearings, but recently the county commissioners voted unanimously to allow this activity on agricultural zoned land.

Ironically, these systems will demonstrate why compost doesn’t have to generate offensive odors for several reasons: the ASP compost piles are not turned; airflow is induced into the piles resulting in aerobic conditions throughout the pile; and a biofilter cover is used for in-situ treatment of off-gases.

“It has been my experience that most people think that compost piles need to be turned to get oxygen into it,” says Peter. “What they don’t understand is that when a biologically active pile is turned, the oxygen that is introduced into the compost is then consumed by the microorganisms and depleted within 30 to 45 minutes.”

With regard to composting at the training facility, Peter and Justen will induce airflow using a high pressure, high volume electric blower and push air into the pile to replenish the oxygen and displace CO2, heat and water out of the pile.

In short, ASP composting results in aerobic composting versus turned windrow composting, which results in anaerobic composting.

Drainage isn’t a factor for the smaller systems because the bins are covered with roof structures. However, for municipal scale compost facilities managing storm water, it is always an important consideration.

“For the larger systems, municipal-type scale, yes, typically we’ll construct a pond of some kind to handle any surface water run-off.”

The liquid collected is then re-introduce back into the compost pile as process water, or in some cases directed to a sanitary sewer for processing at the local wastewater treatment plant.

“Our goal with composting is to get the pile temperature throughout the pile to exceed 55oC (equivalent to 131oF) for a minimum of three days. Meeting these time-temperature conditions effectively destroys pathogens, parasites and weed seeds in the finished compost,” says Peter.

The objective is to produce a high quality compost product that is safe to use on pastures or in vegetable and landscape gardens.

Moisture is always an important factor when composting, and will be one of the things farmers will learn more about at the site.



“Our goal is to have the moisture content somewhere between 60 and 65 percent, going into the pile,” says Peter. “At that moisture content, it will feel quite wet and you can squeeze a handful and get a drop or two to come out. At this moisture content, it won’t drain free-water that could impact surface and ground water resources.”

Peter says with dairy and pig manure, even if it’s run through a separator and the fibrous material is stacked, the base can get saturated because the water just continues to drain out. It can fill the pipes under the stack with water. To avoid this, some type of dry “bulking” material can be added. Peter often encourages dairies to look to horse stables in their area or even equine events.

“Horse farms always have that same problem, but it tends to be very carbon rich and very dry, which is exactly what you want to marry-up with wet substrates.”

Flexibility is built into the system.

“For example, companies may accumulate their food waste in batches and then mix it up to compost out. Or you can build a pile over a 30-day period as you would on a horse farm,” says Peter. “The idea with the MDA grant is to teach people what is possible, and that there is a method that’s simple and effective and an excellent investment on their farm with an ROI of two to five years.”

There is also flexibility in the use of pipes. With small, aerated bin systems, the air is delivered by an air-floor and there are no pipes to work around.

For larger systems, aeration pipes can be laid directly on the ground with the pile constructed directly on top. Some farms sacrifice the pipe when they bring in their frontend loaders. Others choose a thick-walled HDPE pipe.

“That pipe can literally be pulled out from underneath the pile and reused.”

One of the key features of the system is low maintenance. Once the compost pile has been built, it’s pretty much hands off. The blower and timer to do all of the work.

“You monitor the composting process, but you don’t need the big windrow turner and someone out there driving it,” says Peter. “You’re not paying for fuel, maintenance or repairs and you are able to greatly reduce air emissions. ASP Composting requires about 25 percent of the space when compared to turned windrow composting, and it can be operated at less than 50 percent of the cost.”

Both Peter and Justen feel that once the training facility is in operation, which looks to be late summer of 2017, farmers will be excited to discover that aerated static pile composting yields too many benefits to ignore. It speeds up the process, reduces odors and basically eliminates neighbor issues. It also destroys parasites, pathogens and weed seeds in the mix, has a small footprint, reduces the cost of operation, can handle any organic waste material and is simple to operate.

“The question I get a lot is, ‘If this is all so easy and it’s everything you say it is, why isn’t everybody already doing it?’” asks Peter. “For some reason everybody is just locked onto the idea you need to turn the pile, but you don’t. We have over 1,200 systems in operation in 21 countries. It is a simple technology that is easy to learn – and it works.”


Published in Compost
August 18, 2017, Indiana - Fair Oaks Farms co-founder Sue McCloskey now has a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for general awesomeness.

McCloskey, who launched the hugely popular agritourism farm on the border of Jasper and Newton counties, was one of 15 women to receive an Awesome Women Award in the August edition of Good Housekeeping, which hits newsstands Tuesday. She was lauded for her work in turning manure into clean fuel that powers vehicles at the farm, as well as 42 delivery trucks of Fairs Oaks cheese and dairy products. READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
August 15, 2017, Madison, WI - The Wisconsin State Assembly will honor of the life a young farmer who died on this date a year ago as a result of a farming accident.

Mike Biadasz, 29, went out to agitate a manure pit on his family's farm near Amherst, when the crust layer on top of the pit opened, hydrogen sulfide gas was expelled. He died on Aug. 15, 2016 after being poisoned by methane gas.

The Assembly honored the young resident with a resolution that acknowledged his dedication to farming and the need for best practices to be established for manure pit agitation that mitigate risk and educate the public on hydrogen sulfide poisoning and other toxic gases. 



The 2017 State of Wisconsin Assembly Resolution 6, reads:

Relating to: honoring the life and contributions of Michael "Mike" Robert Biadasz.
Whereas, Michael "Mike" Robert Biadasz was born on March 22, 1987, in Stevens Point and passed away on August 15, 2016; and

Whereas, Mike attended Amherst Elementary and Middle School and graduated from Amherst High School in 2005; and

Whereas, Mike dedicated his life to farming at a young age, attending Mid-State Technical College in Marshfield and Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and advancing in the Farming and Agricultural program; and

Whereas, Mike lived by the adage, "Live today like you are going to die tomorrow, but farm today like you are going to farm forever"; and

Whereas, Mike enjoyed hunting and the outdoors and spending time with friends and family, and always loved to make people laugh; and

Whereas, Mike was considered by many as a best friend and touched so many people throughout his life that more than 1,200 people attended his visitation to pay their respects; and

Whereas, Mike will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and neighbors; and

Whereas, Mike is survived by his parents, Robert and Diane Biadasz of Amherst, and three sisters: Amy (Tim) Tryba of River Falls and their children Everett, Bennett, and Hewitt; Lisa (Nathan) Grezenski of Rosholt and their children Jacob, Tyler, and Natalie; and Megan (Matt) Check of Wausau; and

Whereas, Mike's legacy will live on in his family and friends, who are encouraging farmers to attend safety training classes for best practices in manure pit management and heightening public awareness of hydrogen sulfide poisoning along with other toxic gases; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the assembly, That the members of the Wisconsin State Assembly declare August 15, 2017, Mike Biadasz Day and recognize that his lifelong passion of farming will live on in his legacy; and, be it further

Resolved, That the members of the Wisconsin State Assembly call upon all stakeholders in public health, agriculture, education, and training that best practices be established for manure pit agitation that mitigate risk and educate the public on hydrogen sulfide poisoning and other toxic gases. 

Resolved, That the assembly chief clerk shall provide a copy of this joint resolution to Robert and Diane Biadasz.
Published in Profiles
August 2, 2017, Marshfield, WI - Mike Biadasz's death has spurred his family to help prevent a similar farm tragedy from occurring again.

The 29-year-old and six cattle on his family's farm near Amherst were overcome by toxic gas released from a manure pit last year.

Today, the Biadasz Family donated $40,000 it raised to the National Farm Medicine Center (NFMC) based at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute and Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach (CCO) establishing the Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Memorial Fund.

Farmers can apply for a rebate that covers the cost for a portable gas monitor device that detects gas levels and alerts them when potentially lethal levels are reached. READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
When Tim Sigrist came back to the family farm in Dundee, Ohio, after college, his father John told him he needed to find a new revenue stream. Eventually that would be a booming composted manure business, but first Tim drove a canned milk route.

“Not long after, we learned that the soil surrounding the farm where we had been spreading liquid manure was completely saturated with nutrients,” he remembers. “At the time, in the early 1990s, we had over 350 dairy cattle. Our extension agent suggested composting our solid manure and we decided to try it as a way to deal with the excess manure. The idea of selling the compost came later.”

There were no best practices available for manure composting – let alone much basic research – so Tim was left to experiment with different methods (more on that later). But success was achieved and by 1994, Bull Country Compost was born.

Demand was strong right away – Sigrist made the product attractive by offering delivery – but as word spread, demand started to outstrip supply. They needed more manure, and about three years in, another revenue stream was born through taking horse manure from their Amish neighbors along with manure from other area farms.

Nowadays, Bull Country Compost is one of the largest Class III EPA-inspected composting facilities in Northeast Ohio.

“In 2016, we sold over 45,000 bags of compost, up from 36,000 in 2014,” Sigrist says proudly. “But we actually sell more product in bulk cubic yards than in bagged form to both consumer and retail markets.”

Ten percent of the manure currently comes from their farm (Tim’s parents John and Linda sold the dairy cows in 2013 but continue to raise about 120 dairy heifers), with the remaining from other farms, auction barns and seasonal fairs.

“We have farms where we haul out once a year and others where we do pick-up every week,” says Sigrist. “All locations pay us to take it away and there is a monthly fee to have a dumpster placed. Due to wear and tear on the dumpsters and the extensive cost of trucking – and the fact that some locations are up to 100 miles away – we can’t haul it for free.”

Indeed, it was early on that Sigrist realized it would be easier to provide large manure collection bins at farms, and that number of bins continues to grow.

“They’re 30-yard roll-off dumpsters made by a nearby manufacturer,” he says. “Because manure is so corrosive, we have to continually repair and replace them.”  

Back when he started, Tim knew the basics of composting. Factors such as the type of manure, composting method (oxygenation) and weather would all affect timelines and quality of the final product. He first tried windrows turned by tractor, but it was labor intensive and the Ohio rains kept the material too wet. He researched various types of vessel structures and built one of his own with a concrete base.

“It was 150-by-80 feet with a homemade top supported by wood beams,” Sigrist explains. “There were two rows of material 10-feet wide.”



Over time, he added more vessels, making them wider to accommodate larger equipment, better aerated and better able deal with excess water. Older vessels were aerated using pipes running through the manure, and newer vessels have aeration constructed into the concrete floor through ditches with perforated pipes. This arrangement allows liquid to flow out as composting proceeds.

“The liquid is captured in a drainage system that empties into our manure lagoon,” Sigrist explains. “There is a small fan in each vessel that feeds into the perforated pipes to aid air flow, and this significantly increases the temperature as well.”

Newer vessels also sport a higher hoop roof, which also boosts airflow.  

The manure is composted for six to eight weeks being moved to one of three curing sheds for six to eight months. Screening is next, then bagging in the bagging shed or placement in piles for bulk sale. Sigrist created the bagging system using auger equipment and a homemade conveyor, with which four employees can bag and stack almost five tons of compost an hour.

In total, Bull Country Compost has eight vessels, with 3,000 yards of material continually being processed by about nine employees, some full-time and some part-time/seasonal (Sigrist says that similarly to many industries, finding people willing to do manual labor like bagging can be difficult). The entire operation stretches over three acres.

Multiple groups from both Ohio State University and various local soil and water conservation districts have toured the site, and Sigrist has hosted curious visitors from as far away as Alaska.

While years ago people were generally unsure about composted manure, that has changed.

“It’s been 25 years and we have many loyal customers,” Sigrist says. “Word of mouth is the best advertisement there is. Also, many of our retail locations have an open bag of compost beside the pallet of bags for sale, and this helps people to ‘see, smell and feel’ the compost. Also, through the media and internet, people’s general awareness of soil and environmental health has risen and many consumers have learned the difference between raw manure and compost on their own.”

The farm is still active, with the heifers and 500 acres of crops. Sigrist says the manure composting and farm activities support each other in unique ways, making the entire operation able to support multiple generations of his family.

The composting business has also allowed the family to branch out into offering other services such as custom litter spreader application and custom harvesting. No specific new markets or products are being pursued, but Sigrist says they are always keen to gain a larger share of the soil amendment market at garden centers, and always listen to feedback from customers and garden professionals.

“The entire journey has been a big learning experience,” he reflects. “From finding new markets and keeping up with growth to creating vessels and streamlining the process, we had to develop our own model as there weren’t any of its kind at the time.”

One project Sigrist hopes finish in the future is to pipe heat generated by the compost to the bagging shed.

“That way, bagging can start earlier in the year in more comfort,” he says. “I haven’t gotten to it yet, but in the meantime, we bought the employees nice insulated jackets!”


Published in Profiles
July 28, 2017, Vancouver, B.C. - A spin-off company from the University of British Columbia is promising to make a crap job a good deal easier and cleaner, with a scalable waste-processing system.

Manure management practices on local dairy farms routinely raise a stink from their residential neighbours when the slurry is sprayed on fields, as well as from American farmers who complain of cross-border water pollution resulting from excess nutrient runoff.

Boost Environmental Systems, a new firm, is testing a system that uses microwave heat and hydrogen peroxide to drastically reduce the volume and the composition of manure and sewage solids. The resulting waste is easily digestible with existing systems and the liquid is a rich source of a commercially valuable fertilizer called struvite.

Demonstration-sized units are installed at the UBC Dairy Education Centre in Agassiz and the James Wastewater Treatment Plant in Abbotsford, according to Chief Technology Officer Asha Srinivasan, a post-doctoral fellow at UBC. A third pilot installation is being planned with Metro Vancouver. READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
Texan Jack Moreman, owner of Rolling Plains Ag Compost, is proof positive that those who teach can also do. In fact, he has parlayed his extensive feedlot and manure management knowledge into a highly successful organic fertilizer and soil amendment business.

Moreman, a retired vocational agriculture teacher with an animal husbandry degree from Texas Tech University, began his career by managing a cattle feedlot. He then spent over 25 years teaching at Texas Christian University and Clarendon Community College, where he developed and taught a two-year program in ranch and feedlot management.

Six years ago, this 81-year-old launched a successful turnkey manure composting and organic fertilizer application business headquartered in Clarendon, Texas, that has since doubled in size with 15 employees. Clarendon is about 65 miles southeast of Amarillo.

The company’s motto is, “Giving nature a hand and conserving the land.”

“I feel very strongly about conserving our resources,” says Moreman. “I think composting is one of the better things that we do, and the area that we are in, you could have three different soil types in one field, from sandy loam, to dark clay, to caliche. Compost improves the soil structure and the ability for the carbon molecules to hold the nutrients in place till the plant can get hold of it.”

A group of eight feedlot owners, who together raise about 200,000 head of cattle, annually supply Moreman with the manure he needs to make compost. The company uses its compost turning equipment on land dedicated by each feedlot to convert over 720,000 tons of raw feedlot manure annually into about 300,000 tons of compost. It then sells the compost to farmers as organic fertilizer and a soil amendment, providing the equipment and personnel to land apply it for them.

Rolling Plains Ag Compost makes its money from the sale and application of the compost, with a percentage of that income paid to the feedlot owners for supplying the raw manure.

Moreman says that there are two main reasons why the feedlots are eager to work with Rolling Plains Ag Compost. Firstly, when the feedlot cleans its pens and stockpiles the manure, it typically is compacted in large chunks, which makes it very difficult to land apply. Its nutrient content is also highly variable in this form and it often is full of weed seeds. Because the raw manure is in larger chunks, it usually takes a couple of years to break down in the field, which is why farmers tend to not see any value from it until the second year after application. However, by providing the raw manure to a composter, the large chunks are broken down, it is easier to land apply, and the nutrients are available immediately upon incorporation. Also, farmers who have applied raw manure on their fields have found that this material tends to have unwanted debris like pipes and cables mixed in with it.

Secondly, working with a composter like Rolling Plains Ag Compost, reduces the feedlots’ potential liability concerning land applying of raw manure. Moreman says based on feedback from his feedlot suppliers, the decision to compost the manure rather than land apply it has made a big difference when it comes to dealing with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Our feedlot operators tell us that if an inspector from the EPA or Texas Water Quality Board comes by and they see that they are composting that manure and hauling it out, the inspectors don’t ever bother them because that’s what they want to see done with it,” says Moreman. “But if the inspectors go in there and they have a huge pile that’s so big that it interferes with TV reception, then they get concerned.”

The composting processes gets rid of many of the pathogens and weed seeds in raw manure, and reduces the volume. Moreman says that it reduces the manure volume by as much as 5-to-1. So there is a lot less material to land apply and it tends to have more consistent nutrient content.

Because the feedlots feed their cattle concentrated rations, there is little, if any, roughage like hay or bedding material like straw mixed in with the manure, which actually makes it more valuable as a raw material for making compost because there is little to no filler.

“Dairy manure is probably worth about half as much as cattle feedlot manure because a dairy operation will typically feed a lot of hay and silage to their cattle,” says Moreman. “These beef cattle are on a high grain ration and they are not subjected to a lot of roughage, because these feedlot owners want their cattle to eat a lot of grain and convert that to beef. That’s kind of the name of the game.”

Moreman’s business operates year round. Employees are either creating the windrows, turning the windrows, or land applying the compost for farm customers.

“We are either putting compost on cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat or irrigated pasture,” says Jack. “There is a crop coming off at all times, so they need compost pretty much all the time.”

While there is year-round demand, there are times of greater and lesser demand. May to July tends to be the slowest time of year, after spring crops are planted.

An important selling point to marketing the compost to farm customers is its ability to improve the water holding capacity of the soils where it is applied. Water is a valuable commodity to farmers in that part of Texas. Adding compost to dense soils increases their aeration and drainage capacity, and increases the water holding capacity of sandy soils. Most of Rolling Plains Ag Compost’s customers participate in a program where they
land-apply compost on each parcel of land on a two-to-three year rotation.

The company has worked hard to build its farm customer base, and Moreman’s background as an educator has helped. He spends considerable time hosting seminars and speaking to individual farmers about the benefits of using compost. His effort has paid off.

“You can be assured of one thing that if they try it, we are going to make a sale next time around,” says Moreman.

While compost has significant nutrient value, it does not necessarily fulfil all the farmer’s nutrient needs but represents only part of the overall puzzle. The company’s customers understand that. Most will need to add some commercial fertilizer, depending on the crop they are growing.



Typically, a feedlot will stockpile its raw manure as it cleans its pens and then Rolling Plains Ag Compost will bring in their own loaders and trucks to transport the manure to a drainage-controlled parcel of land that the feedlot has designated as its composting area. This can measure anywhere from 20 to 40 acres.

The company will create a compost windrow that measures approximately six-feet tall by up to 16-feet wide. The windrow will be as long as required by the amount of raw manure being converted. In the past, they have measured anywhere from a quarter-mile to a mile long.

The composting process consists of windrow turning, temperature measurement and moisture measure to ensure that the microorganisms responsible for the biological conversion process within the windrows are doing their job.

Part of the reason for the turning process is to ensure that the windrows are well oxygenated to support the microorganisms. As the conversion process takes place, the windrows can heat up to as much as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

To turn the windrows, Rolling Plains Ag Compost uses a CT718 compost turner by Wildcat, which is a Vermeer company. With a 44-inch diameter drum to turn, mix and aerate the material, it can process up to 5,000 tons of manure per hour. The turning takes place typically once a week.

After about six weeks, the raw manure has been converted to compost and it is ready for land application. Moreman says the compost turner is a large and powerful piece of equipment with a 500 hp Caterpillar engine. He adds that it is sturdy enough to break down the chunks in the manure pile.

Rolling Plains Ag Compost has its own fleet of semi-trailer trucks to deliver the compost to farm customers. At all stages of the pen cleaning, composting, and land application process, the company depends on a large fleet of John Deere loaders to move the material as needed.

Once the compost is delivered to the farm, the compost is temporarily stockpiled beside the field and then loaded into New Leader spreaders to land apply the compost. Rolling Plains Ag Compost owns four of them. New Leader is a type of nutrient applicator manufactured by Highway Equipment Company (HECO) located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the Rolling Plains Ag Compost operation, the applicators are mounted on either Chevrolet or International trucks.

Moreman says that these New Leader nutrient applicators are large and purpose-built. The box consists of a stainless steel bed with a conveyor on the bottom. The conveyor propels the compost to the back of the box, where spinners broadcast the material onto the land. The company will deploy as many nutrient applicators as needed for each job, but when all four are working, their customers are amazed at how quickly the job gets done.

“They are also very accurate,” says Jack. “There is a GPS unit on them to ensure that you don’t leave any part of the field out, and if you do, it will tell you.”

In terms of application amounts, Rolling Plains Ag Compost recommends four tons per acre on irrigated land and two-to-three tons on dry land. Once the farmer has some experience using the compost, they usually make adjustments on future applications based on the responses that they have experienced.

Published in Compost
July 20, 2017 - Take a tour of the McCormick Farms Reclamation System. This video demonstates how the McCormick Farm is able to clean barns and recycle the sands and separate the solids from the liquids in order to recycle all the bedding.

McCormick Farms values sustainable development, thus have an automated system integrated directly in the farm to keep the cows clean and reuse and recycle wastes.

Cows currently are all bedded with sand, so it is very important for the cows well-being that their bedding is kept dry. For more information, watch the video above!
Published in Dairy
July 20, 2017, NY - On Wednesday, Aug. 9, the New York Ag Leadership Luncheon at Empire Farm Days will honor Mike and Peter Dueppengiesser as recipients of the 2017 Agricultural Environmental Management Award.

Ag Commissioner Richard Ball is scheduled to present the Empire State's top environmental award to this third-generation family farm for their exemplary environmental management.

The brothers' Dueppengiesser Dairy Co. of Perry, N.Y., is proof that farms can grow and be both sustainable and profitable by being environmentally responsible.

They closely worked with Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District to meet the state's top (Tier 5) standards while growing their business from 110 milking cows and 750 acres in 1990 to today's 1,100-cow milking herd and 2,100 cropland acres. READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
July 19, 2017, Vermont -  You can tell a lot about a farm by looking closely at the soil. That's why the new, statewide program to recognize Vermont's most environmentally friendly farmers will be based on soil-sampling and monitoring.

Today, Governor Phil Scott announced the pilot launch of the new Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP), which will use soil-based analysis to identify farmers who are going above and beyond to protect our natural resources.

Surrounded by state and federal officials at the North Williston Cattle Company, owned by the Whitcomb family, Governor Scott emphasized the important role farmers play in Vermont communities.

The program is a partner effort by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and the University of Vermont Extension.
Published in Business/Policy
July 19, 2017, Washington - The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced July 7, an award of $1 million to the Stillaguamish Tribe for an innovative project in dairy nutrient management at Natural Milk Dairy in Stanwood.

As the lone recipient in Washington state of a nationally funded Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), the tribe proposes to demonstrate successful implementation of an emerging animal nutrient treatment system for dairy farms.

The technology, originally developed to address human waste in developing countries, is now being adapted to treat dairy nutrients. READ MORE
Published in Profiles
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