Thanks Susan for sharing your story of your visit!

Visit to Vermont Composting – August 23

Karl HammersmKarl Hammer, owner of Vermont Composting, Montpelier VT, toured me around the 25 year old facility. It was a great education and the best conversation I’ve had in a long time. My reason to visit: Moving to Conserver interest in developing compost options, including a small commercial facility)

Highlights noted …

The farm sits on a hill, at the edge of Montpelier. As homes moved closer, VC has accommodated urban neighbors with contracts re smell/noise, a pro-active step.

When food scraps arrive, chickens are FIRST handlers, about 1000 of them of all ages, free range and housed in 16×24 nested, moveable sheds. Benefits – immediate treatment of bugs, smelly garbage, reveals inadvertent trash. There is no grain added to diet. Eggs are a staff benefit and for sale – a significant income line. They are protected by mules and electric fence.

Processing into defined products occurs as named piles are mixed and moved down hill, always on soil, not cement or other barrier. Major mixers include sawdust/tree chips, granite and other local mineral powders.The major compost product goes to organic growers/greenhouses/landscapers. Roof top urban gardens are a noted line item now. Fort Vee is a main mix, 1/2 of sales. Some blends are granite/compost/basalt blend, a kelp/gypsum/bloodmeal. Other adaptations: a bio char blend, a traction mix: 1/2 chips/part compost/partgranite for his steep roads. Wonder if this would work on our freeze and thaw gravel roads here? Karl did not speculate. Bag sizes: 6#, 20# 60#. Quality Assurance a main part of VC from the beginning, there has always been a full lab.

BiodieselIndustrial machinery is used and ALL runs on biofuels. Major brands: Kuboto and V
All machinery is Tier 3, not Tier 4, the current ‘standard’, which is too computerized to be functional, especially on biodiesel. There are two of each big piece, 3 if Karl has been able to find one – they are scarce and sought after by others in field due to flexibility, reparability.

Biodiesal trucks do pick-up on routes.Originally, the mule team did Montpelier pick-up, based on the Culinary Institute. in 1998, the mule-skinner left, was not replacable, hence trucks – to Karl’s continued regret. Mules are still used on farm, for some public events.

Issues over years: how to lower costs, regulatory changes, federal as well as state laws. Sounds like ‘regular’ business issues!

compost pileKarl says the success of VC is based on quality of the products they produce, and their on their policies and practices – many companies have inferior soil amendment production, it’s cheaper to produce.

He also noted the importance of teachings and policies Vandana Shiva, in his and other Vermont businesses. She’s an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate and author. She is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization. She frequently talks in VT and supports Vermont Compost polices and practices.

References: Vermont Compost website; Podcast Farmer-to-Farmer, #35; two you-tube videos under VC or Karl Hammer.