Don Rosenberg and I spoke a lot about healthy soil in your garden in episode 157. I thought replaying Alissa’s episode about using compost to make healthy soil might inspire people as well and complimented that interview really well. I’m pretty sure it’s the MOST downloaded episode of the Organic Gardener Podcast certainly in 2016. It’s from June of this year and already closing in on 2000 downloads! I have another great interview I did this weekend although it’s not edited yet that I think you will enjoy I’ll try to get posted next weekend! Thanks for listening!
Full show notes will be done and posted at the OrganicGardenerPodcast.com soon!! Thanks for your patience this spring as I try to keep the podcast going while working many many hours! But gotta work while the work is there!
Have a great day all you Green Future Growers!!!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 26 grew up in Whitefish MT, left traveled for a while after high school. I ended up deciding I want to go to school so I went to Missoula for an EVST degree.
started farming for about 7 years, sustainable ag, sector of the EVST degree. I moved back here right after my degree. I started this company with a partner, Rachel Gerber, she had the idea and I had the push foward and we started. We immediately got a contract with Xanterra the concessionaire of Glacier National Park right away.!
Wow! That’s great taht the people in charge of guests to Glacier National Park. What are they are in charge of when people come and stay at the lodge right?
So I kind of had to figured it out myself, they are a separate entity then the National Park Service, separate that has to run all the lodges and restaurants within Glacier National Park. They provide the services.
So tell us a little bit about the business.
So right now the business model itself is based of the compost product, focused on perennials and annuals as I go. I’m still learning as I go but we have some pretty solid product coming out.
Food-scrap pick-up service
Also we wanted to provide a food scrap pick-up service really great rich source of compost to the blley as well as a food scrap pick up service because there is really no option for composting your food scraps unless you do it yourself and we live in a wildlife corridor so that can create problems.
So a food-scrap pick up? Waht does that entail you go to homes, commerical hospitals? Schools? etc?
So right now we offer residential and commercial pick-up service. WE really just have a couple of handfuls of residential customers.
We pick up once a week. I provide them with a 5 gallon bucket and compostable liner each week.
They do the cleaning out of the bucket, I pikc up their sraps and provide a new bio bag, residential… bio bag, depending on where they live 20-30$ a month.
Essentially we’re losing money on that, it’s just to provie and option for the community if they don’t have time to compost scraps and don’t want to throw it away.
the more, the sustenance, what provides us with the financial ability to survive as a business is the commercial
throughout the season, when I have the time,
to reach out to different restaurants. Hey, this is what we are doing
[provide with a 48 gallon or 32 gallon bin depending on how much space thy have and how much food they produce
- food scraps
- each week we pick up
- 3 times,
- clean food bins
- jsut do everything
- make the service as simple as possible
transitions especially in this kind of area
more sustainable and relatively alternative here an option such as food scrap
you have to make it as easy as possible
it’s a really solid system
we take their food scraps 3 times a week and compost them!
I happen to be working up here at a golf course. I love the people my boss is super nice, and they have been letting me and one of the oteher cooks take home the recylcing compost, egg shells, lettuce… they were like we don’t care if you want to that’s great! I’ve been to toeh places where people were concerned about stealing food, but when I see the waste if someone hasn’t saved it when I get there…. to me it’s like throwing gold in the garbage on the golf course they are doing tons of landscaping and there are beds etc everywhere and because it’s a golf course and club house they don’t have a ton of business but it’s gonna pick up but they still already use a ton of compostable produce. On top of that we haul our garbage to Troy 65 miles away! So then do people in turn, the people you pick it up from, do they buy the compost or use it again?
That is the hope that they will evenetually… Emmanual Lutheran and Buffalo Hills retirement communities…
Chef Nelson is awesome and really forward thinking and is hoping to be buying back our composts eventually and plant some kind of garden to suplement their produce…
Did you see that new garden it’s like a community garden by Glacier Bank on the back road by FVCC right there by Buffalo Hills right by the Blue Cow and the back road… I just happened to see some guy planting… they might want your compost… So how did that go reaching out to chefs I’ve been thinking about that? Reading Curtis stone’s book and The Farm on the Roof and thinking about reaching out to chefs?
You mean talking to chefs about the food pick up program…. IT’s been really mixed, it’s interesting a lot of people are excited about it! Some chefs are so on!
I learned multiple different things, they’re not in control of the finances so they have to go through people who are coming to
comes down to the bottom line and they say “no. ” Unless you have chefs who are really passionate about it
who have more say then other restaurants
that’s been initially uncomfortable part, so…
That’s why I asked… becasue it’s uncomforatble for me…
Initially the reaction was, “Oh! It’s a salesman” but I don’t see myself as a salesman, but I could see that questions coming up, at first it made me really uncomfortable the first t6 months my partner did it, but so I recently bought here out of the company
But now, I feel very confident and comfortable, I have had enough restaurants sign on, I know that they would be excited once it started going!
and their employees were happy and encouraged taht their employer was making this decision and wasn’t just about the bottom line, it’s encouraging for people because it’s always just their bosses as cheap as possible
they feel like they are doing something good, and that the food doesn’t stink and it’s not a huge inconvenience, because the system is really solid. It’s become easier for me that I am much more confident in my abilities and the system that we were providing. More confident in the product that we are producing.
That part had me a little worried, we’re just about a year old, this was the first season where people were calling me for product.
I’m so proud of you, I think we agree all really nervous in the beginning, you’re a really nice forward thinking rockstar millenials I’m always talking about. Now tell us about the product!
I’m really following Dr. Elaine Ingham taking a lot of her online courses
I’m really trying to focus on spreading the word throughout the community and focusing on my product that’s based on the biology of the compost reacher then the chemical makeup.
So many generations in ag has focused more on that. I want to bring it back to the life in the soil, that’s what’s driving to grow our food in a more sustainable way.
We are selling perennial compost and annual compost.
- 1/2 wood chips
- food scraps
- grass clippings
The perennial’s generally like soil that is more fungal dominated. So some piles are much more wood chip based, those are the perennial piles. Probably the carbon material that we use is 1/2 wood chips in the perennial piles.
In the annual piles is 1/6 or a 1/7 wood chip, the rest of whats in the perennial piles is obviously
- food scraps
- grass clippings
what is being brought to us from the community, and needs to be composted. So that is what else we offer to the people of Columbia Falls and thoroughout the Flathead Valley is a site to bring their waste material and organic scraps that they don’t want to throw into the landfill and don’t want to take the time to burn. We have a gravel pit set up that is used all constantly every day summer long.
- everyone drops off
- grass clippings
- garden cutback that they don’t want to throw away
We use what ever we have the most of we try to make sure that what comes in has not … we put out there that we don’t’ want to use anything that has been treated with pesticides and herbicides but it’s hard to regulate so we use whatever. I also reach out to farmers and ranchers… and get old hay, whatever we’re not receiving … to supplement…
do you know landscapers who know who doesn’t use chemicals…
I’ve definitely talked to a lot of people… some people tat I drop off and I don’t know … most I have had a lot of contact with them…. I ask them to make sure that’s it’s been at least a year. A lot of landscapers they do keep track, they’re close with their clients and customers and they say for my own business, encouraging them to do that…
Is there anything I’m forgetting? Want to mention? Where are you getting this land?
We have a couple of investors, that’s what we should talk about is the the political aspect or this.
Perfect becasue today’s election day.
In Montana, throughout this process, it’s incredibly challenging to start a food scrap composting company, so it’s become somewhat of a political I dont’ watnt to call it a battle but a challenge IDK if other people have tried to do what we are doing or I’m doing I know none else is doing it is. If I had to grt a bank loan. If I did not have startup loan and private investors
too unpredictable for a bank
as far as regulation
working with the DEQ has been an absolute nightmare
doing the best they can
doing their job
no category for something like this
the large composter permit
small composers permit
we’re both pretty smart intelligent women
signing up for a small composter’s permit
based off your size, how much your processing
what your accepting and located
we fall into that category
low cost just processing the application
we sent that tin originally
imagine us trying to =get that into together
to get this contract with Xanterra
wanted this for the Valley
waited months to hear back form the DEQ,
impossible to get a hold of them, most of the time,
the small composters
then about a month later,
hey, you’re not gonna fit into the small composter
essentially like applying to be a landfill
pay about $7k
mind you we are composting on 2 acres
annual upwards of $2k
that’s make or break
I held out for as long as I could
you should not be putting this kind of
fiscal burden on
to be encouraging businesses like this to be flourishing
people aren’t composting correctly
could effect people’s water supply
I met with Jon Tester
a while a go for young entrepreneurs roundtable
this is a huge issue
that sounds’ crazy
said something along the lines of the regulation and the fees involved
should be along the same level of risk
imposed upon the community
just so everybody knows that’s a huge issue
who wants to start something like this
doesn’t know if
still waiting and
trying to be as present
shift these guidelines
so that it’s more encouraging these operations
in a responsible way, people who know what they are going,
high nitrogen content
nitrogen leaking into the underground water system
any kind of phosphorous
I am only a person is doing something I’m passionate about
they’re lining these beds with these liners
that are sup[used to help with leaches
the local landfill
working on such a massive scale with so much waste
its impossible not to have issues
when you are throwing these things like food scraps
which is 35-75% food scraps
should be used for something important for the community
if there is not enough air
or covered with
the environment goes anaerobic, which means there’s not enough air in these systems
they become aerobic, that is the worst, bacterial fungal, any time of microbial friends, or attachments to those food wastes
that’s why it’s so important to keep compost piles
essentially creating toxic sludge in the landfill
it’s not beneficial
methane gas that gets released
one of the biggest issues
Flathead has a whole system for capturing the methane
to use to power some of their
lose a lot of methane
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
They still try sometimes, get frustrated and stop. My first gardening experience started about 17 my good friend Kaley Brown and some others, got into gardening, trying to get to gather and experiment it was fun. Mostly vegetable, grow our food… see what it gook ,initially it was intimidating. as a new gardener I have no idea what I’m doing
with friends we can
might have been even later
one specific place
friends parents piece of land
go ahead grow a garden
owned this land
just outside of town
my 2 friends started a garden out there and it caught on with me, some at my house….
How did you learn how to garden organically?
Yeah, it’s been a really long process
I’m a big proponent of trying ti yourself, screwing up a lot, reading,
that didn’t work? Why?
it wasn’t right for that soil, this climate? Maybe I didn’t’ harden off
some experience at the peas farm, at the college….
Tell us about something that grew well this year.
It varies from year to year, I got a stupid amount of squash, it’s not necessarily that has grown well for me,
how much do I actually ned to grow
how many plants to I need
i still have squash…
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
I’ve been getting more interested in getting more
looking at the different options of their seeds
and trying to
trying to carry a lot more medicinals, they carry some awesome stuff
experimenting more with mdieincialsk
cultivating my own medicinal medicines and plants …
I feel like that
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.
I still I’ll just keep coming back, what didn’t grow so well, heat loving plants, I got some peppers, but they were puny, I don’t have any heated
toppers or anything that creates the heat.
they were like meh,
i feel like they
what do I need to grow, what do I like to eat
what’s gonna sustain me over the winter
grounding the medicinal
is that gonna be a summer thing
what kind of things do I need for the springtime
where I’m picking it,
preserving things for the spring
getting the big picture idea
in Whitefish, it’s expensive to use water
almost too expensive to grow a garden
talking to local people about that, it’s an issue
anything to becomes
THE ROOT OF THINGS!
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
Sure, this may sound funny, but planting seeds,
that is the least enjoyable part for me,
painting is fine
mm[millennials, ok, I’m gonna spend some time planting…
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.
Everything else I love… I love, harvesting is cool. it’s on the back burner
if I’m gonna be drying it,
not even thinking about it
if I’m planning
the recipe I’m gonna can
I actually really like weeding and providing
setting up a little systems
that looks beautiful
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
Ummmm… actually that is probably the best advice I have received
my ex, former business partner,
very good friends since kindergarten
last year she said you should really try
really thick mulching with hay.
and she said its’ gonna make things easier
ti’s completely changed the way I garden
people including myself that want to have a pretty garden and looks manicured
when I start using much
it completely changed my garden
who everything grew
water it retained
the amount of effort I had to use t
weight and effort
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.
4 I’m not much of a tool person,
I use my hands a lot
a lot of people living with me,
random medicinal things
burdock root, if I didn’t have my huge shovel,
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
I love the different tomato sauces
especially the tomatillo based sauces
I have them 3-4 basic
throw together what I feel like eating
and addd some cooling or heating spices
baking, with the onions in there too
charring with almost
maybe a little lemon and herbs
I don’t think I actually did the foil, cookie sheet, 20-30 minutes
blacken a little bit
A favorite internet resource?
the internet is just so vast, just type in whatever my question is
and I intuitively go tot he tone that works best of me
if I was to say hey check this out
I really don’t have one that
there’s so may gardeners and homesteaders an posting such amazing info and plethora of ideas.
one of them offered and see what works for you…
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
Such a soil junkie
I compost for a living
it’s changed so much for me in my life and in greener
I was so focused on the plants
I read a lot of soil books. The one that I would recommend.
Any books regarding
If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?
I have had multiple different people from MT or OR ask me, can you give mentor me, give me some ideas or insights
I thought about that a little bit, it’s hard to give people
step by step thing I could give
there really isn’t my specific instance
this young man in Bozeman is experiencing
Xanterra reaching out to us saying hay we want you to compost your food scraps
to get the big transfusions of funds going immediately
this guy in Bozeman is looking at and talking to the waste management people and municipalities in Bozeman
and work with them for pickup
if he would do all the composting
so many different ways to approach it
do your research a lot of money, time and passion invested into this
i wouldn’t have it any way
a lot more a of a commitment
barriers of people
that’s why more people have to
push that envelope a bit
that this is omitting important
want to be composting their food scraps and servant their food scraps
do your research
if you fail. what are you failing at, your failing at this idea of what you thought your’e doing, you may be punching another hole in the barrier!
Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
Agriculture is such a obvious staple for humanity,
how they’re effecting the eco systems around them
what they’re using on these crops and how they are affecting pollinators
our success as human sand ag providers
looking at our food shed
actually reading book
REBUILDING THE FOOD SHED
feel like that is a really important thing for us
as a society to be tackling right now!
huge explosion in farmer’s markets
now that we’ve gotten there what’s the most efficient
regional food for our community what size of operations
what kind of produce are we growing and where
I’m not a proponent of just small scale of
tiny produce for a community
looking at different scales and combinations
looking at food hubs
working with Casey Anderson
he’s a young
the produce depot
missing link that we have
in the Flathead Valley
farming all over the valley
and grow and market and distribute that food
huge issue in this community
he’s importing food from spoken and Washington and he’s really interested in keeping the money in the community
working together to come up with this system and
people who want to farm
and growing enough food
provide the greater flathead valley
supplementing greens from California
just looking at the food shed
the bigger picture
[pesticides and herbicides and
food shed and
full circle of distribution
me completing the secede
turing tit back into nutrients
looking at the whole cycle
it doesn’t make sense for the mid scale
if it’s to some Mexican migrant picking it
how it effects the environment
I’ve been trying to come up with a name for my audience, Ive been thinking about
Green Future Growers
because they’re growing a greener future!
you’re definitely a green future grower
I did meet Casey Anderson, I did get his phone number
It’s funny, I have no business cards, it’s funny the graphic designer I’ve made so many business cards, but I don’t ave any for me.
I do love that he’s trying to
Do you just want to explain really quick wheat’s a food shed? Like a water shed but where we grow our food…?
Food-shed, a play off of watershed. That’s what I’ve been trying to illustrate for people in the area, the whole cycle, nutrients and the actions that take place in a region or
a county what have you…
I like to start with the farmers
who’s growing your food?
that part of the food shed.
That part of what what makes up…
is providing the making up the food that we eat in the vicinity
how they’re growing it
in this case, what Casey’s trying to fill
even minor details like
what truck is being used to pick up that produce?
how ware we getting that produce from farmer to distributer. Because if farmers are driving their old crispy
understandable why they own them
if all those farmers are taking their trucks and
a lot of larger scale operations
how much crap are we giving them
how are we
efficient are they at providing what we need
a stream and direction
that is efficient and effective at reinvigorating these communities
moving on from the farmer
how are they distributing
is it being processes
is it meant
is it becoming a sauce dan not just a whole food
getting more processing centers in our region
whatever kin of product
processed out of state
professing our “value-added”food
gonna provide jobs and closer more intimate outlet
people who are trying to create products
how are they distributing and where are they
how are they using it
are they thinking seasonally
are they trying to adjust
tomato dinner in the middle of winter
looking at this big pitcher
who’s taking hat waste
and what’s being done with it
taking all the nutrients
that hasn’t been used
being efficient and grow in a smart way for our communities
looking t the food shed is large scale
a town perfects…
Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
Just simple it will change your life for the better…
How do we connect with you?
I have a Facebook page, I’m excited I’m working on a website with some young business photographers, and website designers in the
at the farmer’s market
just happy to connect with people
about questions or ideas….
Whatever they’re needing …
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