Compost Business - Is There More To It Than This?

by John
(Maryland, US)

I've been in the lawn care industry for 28 years and do leaf removal in the Fall. I collect tons of leaves and dump them on my 2 acre property in the woods. Even though I've got some great leaf compost in my back woods, I would like to do more with the decomposing leaves. If possible, I would love to start a compost business and reap the rewards.


My thought was to collect leaves, put them in windrows and turn them until they've broken down into compost. But then what? Would I sell by bulk or bag it? Is there more to it?

I also have a connection with a farmer and would like to know how to present this business opportunity to him. On a larger scale, I've seen larger equipment for shredding leaves, I believe Kemp was one.

I would like to hear some of the tribe's input.

Ever so grateful,
John

Updated - Dec. 18-2011

We just released our first interview in our new Pearls from the Pile series. We are traveling across the globe asking compost producers for their advice on starting compost-related businesses. You're going to love this series. Check it out in our Interviews section.

Enjoy.

Compost Junkie Dave

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Nov 27, 2011
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One Business's Trash Is Another's Treasure
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Hey John!
Welcome to the CJ Tribe.

I've gotta start with a few questions...

What do you mean by "tons" of leaves? Several dump truck loads? 100 cubic yards?

Your idea of collecting the leaves and turning them in windrows is a good one, but there's a lot more to it in order to start generating revenue...but you're on the right track, so let's keep going.

Most importantly, leaves that are collected in the Fall tend to have a high carbon content. In order to make high quality compost, you want to make sure your initial compost ingredients combine to make a carbon to nitrogen ratio of approximately 20:1 to 40:1 (Carbon:Nitrogen).

But guess what?

You run a lawn care company for a living and I assume you bag a lot of your client's grass clippings (a practice I am totally against, but understand that the client comes first and you're there to serve them). Is that true re bagging the clippings? If so, you may be in luck.

If you were to save your leaves from the Fall and add them to the fresh grass clippings of the following season, you're looking at a match made in heaven.

My main concern about selling the end product is whether you have enough raw materials to produce enough compost to turn a profit. If not, there are other options we can pursue. Maybe that farmer friend of yours will be able to offer up some additional ingredients (e.g. manure, hay, straw, excess feed, etc.).

Regarding your question about bagging or selling bulk, that's going to be dictated by your market research results. We'll get into that topic in a bit.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

CJD


Nov 28, 2011
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Compost Advice in Ellicott City Area?
by: John

Thanks for the reply Dave.

I will look over the info and try to come up with a plan to compost my leaf piles so that they can be used. I'd like to sell in bulk.

Do you, or anyone else in the tribe, know of someone living in the Ellicott City area who could drop by for a visit, check out my compost piles, and advise me further?

Greatly appreciated.

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