Friday, December 28, 2012

The Miracle of Compost

Compost and soil building is the foundation of our fertility Program for the Farm. 

  1. We make our own compost for our soil mix and for planting seedlings.
  2. We grow green manures for incorporation into the soil during the growing season.
  3. We buy compost day to day use on the farm.
The biggest source of compost is from the Rochester, Minnesota, Waste to Energy Facility. This is primarily leaf and grass compost. It costs $25 per ton if you load your own. They test it for persistent chemicals yearly and there have been none. They say that it requires 30-35 yards of leaves and grass to make one yard of compost. So the compost is a greatly concentrated form of organic matter. The compost is nearly weed free so we can use it as a protective weed supressing mulch on top of the soil. The compost facility is very close to where I work and only a mile from the farmers market, so I combine many trips.

We use approximately 350,000 lbs of compost a year.  We have been stewarding our farm for more than 12 years so that would be approximately 4,000,000 lbs of compost. That would be over 10 lbs per square foot of nearly pure organic matter, completely covering our 8 tillable acres by 4-6 inches deep over that time period.

 Note: Video looks much better in 1080p fullscreen mode.

It can take up to 500 years to build one inch of deep prarie topsoil and to grow crops agriculturally approximately 6 inches of good topsoil are needed. So we are rapidly building soil on our farm, possibly thousands of years of soil building in just 10 short years. We used to see plant diseases that were nutrient based and these have largely disapeared after several years of compost.

We use this precious resource in concentration around the plants instead of broadcasting it all over the place. Most of our greens get planted in a raised bed of 4 inches of pure compost. Spinach, lettuce, and arugula taste spectacular when grown this way. Candy carrots melt in your mouth and tomatoes have amazing flavor.

I believe the compost also delivers a broad range of minerals as they are recycled from deep in the soil by the carbonacious leaf substrate. I believe these are largely depleted from our soils and are needed by our bodies for good health.

Chemically farmed soils also have the biology surpressed by the pharmacopial soup used on them. The compost keeps the micro and macro biology in peak form. Allowing a slow and natural transformation  of nutrients to the plants.

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