(New Hampshire, USA)
How do you make compost tea into a sustainable business? That's the question we proposed on January 24, 2012, when we interviewed Peter, from Compostwerks.com. Compostwerks is located in New Hampshire, USA. Unlike many other compost producers, Compostwerks creates compost for one specific purpose - to make compost tea. With all of their focus on making compost tea, you can imagine how much love and care go into producing a superior compost.
Our interview consisted of seven questions, each with the intention of providing you with greater insight into the ins and outs of making money making compost tea. We hope you enjoy.
This interview is also available as a pdf - Download PDF now
Q1. Please tell us about yourself, and provide some general information for our visitors about your compost business.
A. I have been in the horticultural field since 1984 which was mostly specific to the tree care industry. Beginning in 1999, I have been involved in organics on a daily basis. We started our business in Mt. Kisco, New York in 2008, and ever since we have been growing quickly trying to keep up with demand. I became a Certified Soil Foodweb Advisor in 2010.
Since we produce compost specifically for brewing compost tea, we keep our operation small and have not yet needed any employees. We produce roughly 60 cubic yards of compost per year in small batches in New York and also New Hampshire, where I live. Our feed stocks are very diverse but our bulking agent is leaves. We compost pre-consumer organic vegetables, wood chips, spoiled hay and organic brewer's grain and never use animal manures as feed socks (our compost is vegan).
Q2. If one of our Tribe members wanted to start a compost business focusing primarily on making high-quality compost and compost tea, what are five important factors they must consider during the planning stages of their business?
Q3. There are a lot of people trying to make compost tea these days, can you discuss one or two of your successes or failures with compost tea products from a business perspective?
A. The failures I have seen are really around people's belief that compost tea will solve ALL the problems out there. Have we addressed soil compaction and organic matter percentage? What about weeds? Without sound cultural practices, we're setting ourselves up for failure. I have seen this time and time again.
Compost Junkie Dave's Comment
This is VERY important guys, please re-read Peter's answer to question 3. I've attached a link to a free podcast that helps explain this concept in more detail.
If you want to make compost tea, that is absolutely wonderful and I fully encourage you to do so, but it's not a panacea for all of your gardening woes. It's just part of the puzzle. The same is true for compost itself. Recall our golden triangle of soil health - microbes, organic matter, and nutrients (i.e. minerals).
Download podcast - Steve Solomon on Organic Mythology and Soil Health
Q4. If the average home gardener wanted to make compost tea, how important is it that they also own a microscope for analyzing their brews?
A. Direct microscopy requires more than just investing in a microscope. There is training involved along with the ability to actually afford a microscope. I find myself looking for what is missing biology wise when looking at soil and compost samples. This takes some time to master. It may be best for most home gardeners to seek the advice of a Soil Foodweb Advisor or send samples to the Soil Foodweb.
Q5. For the compost tea side of your business, who is your ideal customer? Why?
A. Our ideal client is intent on buying the best compost available for the job at hand. They have the desire to use sustainable land care methods and stay clear of pesticides completely. We really enjoy working with people who are just beginning, or transitioning, there business from applying pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers.
Q6. Okay, it makes cents to make compost tea, but now I have a compost-specific question. What is your opinion of composting biosolids (i.e. municipal sewage sludge)?
A. This is a difficult question, but first an observation. Whenever humans create a concentration of anything, there are problems. But this waste must be dealt with. I believe it's a mistake to apply bio-solids in a residential or agricultural situation because of heavy metals and prions. It may be best to apply them in forest systems (well away from water) where the very complex biology can decompose those toxins. These areas are generally away from humans.
NOTE - Please do your due diligence when buying fertilizers (even organic fertilizers). Read the labels of what's actually contained in the bag. Bio-solids have quietly made there way into fertilizers, much the way that GMO-soy has crept into processed foods. Buyer beware!
Q7. Lastly, I have to ask, what makes Compostwerks different from other businesses?
A. Well, it's about walking the walk. I live on a small organic farm where we're very connected with the seasons. We grow much of our own food and preserve it in different ways. We raise many different kinds of animals who are treated with respect and compassion. We heat our home with wood that's harvested right from our property. Every scrap of material that's compostable goes back into our land management system. We're involved with teaching right here in our own community. Whenever possible, we support local business who have similar beliefs.
Below are a couple pictures that Peter sent to us that didn't quite fit in the interview above...
Tribe, we couldn't agree more with Peter - It's more important than ever to "Walk the walk"! In order to create real change in this world, we must all become living examples of our own desires. If you want a more peaceful world, based on localized food systems, then you MUST make an effort to support your local farmers. Yes, their products "may" appear more expensive than those at your grocery store, but it's merely an illusion created by government subsidies and tax dollars. And besides, the produce in the grocery store tastes like CRAP compared to farm fresh crops.
That concludes our third interview in our Pearls from the Pile Series. Once again, we want to thank Peter and all of the support at Compostwerks for making this interview possible. If you would like to learn how Compostwerks can help you get your compost tea business off the ground, please contact them directly. We hope you found this interview beneficial and look forward to our next one.
If you missed it, here is our interview with John, from Transform Compost Systems, sharing his wisdom on starting a composting business.
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Until next time...
Peace, Love, and Happy Composting!