Farm To Fork Wyoming, The Story of Compost, Part 2

– Ideas about waste are
changing all around us. And composting is playing
an important part. – You know, we need to
recycle, we need to compost, we need to think about
upstream diversion tactics. – How cool would it be
if you could bring in, let’s say from a
school, where everything on the plate was compostable? – A pound of worms eat a
pound of food scrap a day. – The best ones I’ve had
are the ones I’ve set up and forgot about, for months, just, I forgot they
were even there. – So, for everything
bad that we’ve created that we now have
to take care of, we’ve got some really
neat tools to help us work this stuff out. So it’s going to be,
composting is, I think, something everybody
is going to be doing. (uplifting music) – Production of Farm
to Fork, Wyoming, is made possible with the
generous support of the Wyoming Business Council,
Agribusiness division, Rocky Mountain
Gardening magazine, and viewers like you. Thank you. (funky music) Whatever the circumstances, there seems to be a
composting method to suit the need. Erica Rogers makes it
work indoors and out, with worms. – Worms, it’s hard to tell
the front end from the back, a lot of times. And this worm you see right
here, it’s got that fluid. That’s what these worms do
if they feel threatened. And it, these are called
(speaking in a foreign language) ’cause this is kind of a
fettered odor and flavor to predators. And it just composts. It works in that
say, upper two feet, of compostable material. – Vermicompost is
compost made by worms. Instead of using the
heat created by microbes, there’s no thermal
heat in vermicompost. It’s just the material
going through the worm. – I sell it, but we
try to use more of it, on our own place and
that’s the reason I started with the worms, is anybody in Wyoming knows
our soils aren’t the greatest. So to garden you have to do
a lot of work on the soils, and I just have always
been fascinated with worms. When I was little, we’d
go get nightcrawlers, and sell them for bait. Now if you’re trying
to do a high income, low labor business, it’s not
the business to get in to. – In her ranch setting,
outdoor trenches are an easy way to get rid of all
kinds of compostables. – And we compost the
manures more in these than we do our kitchen scraps. But what we like
about trench systems, and you don’t even need
to dig it into the ground, you can have that all
above ground if you want, but you can start it on
one end and get it going, and then if you
have more to add, you just add on the edge of it. So you never have to
disrupt what’s happening over here to add more, and you just can make
it as long as you want. This we just dug ’cause that’s
what we felt like digging this long. And when you get to the far
end, hopefully this end’s now composted, so you start
to harvest your finished product til you get to a,
and then leave them a spot, and then you start
bringing it back this way, so you never have to
worry about moving worms. They just constantly
have that spot. They’ll migrate back
and forth, yeah. – When the wet spring
flooded out this worm trench, Erica harvested the castings,
and moved them to a garden she’s starting on the other
side of her new property. – So this we just
put in, I don’t know, a few weeks ago, just to try
and get some things started. And I was kind of hoping
this will set up a little bit to show kind of what
it looks like to start. And what it would
look like in the end. This over here is what I
actually harvested from that trench we were just looking at. – To the right, she is
amending a garden bed, above ground. – Can you let this process
for a year and then just go straight to planting? – That’s what my plan
is for this one, yeah. Yep, I was just gonna try
to see if I could get this all turned into decent compost, and then use this to
plant in, next year. I put the newer
stuff I’d want it, and then tried to build
it to more aged manure, and then piled
them in the middle. This is where I
dumped the worms. And it’s so much cooler, when
you get down in the bottom. And they will migrate
around, and half the time I don’t think I
have any in here, until I find that spot
that they have decided is ideal. And then they will
just stay in that spot. Oh, there we go,
now we hit the spot. It’s a nice one there. And there’s a baby, baby one. That’s always good to
see ’cause then you know that they’re hatching. – So you can see little bugs– – Oh, there’s so many
different bugs are gonna be in your worm beds. There is a worm egg. – Oh, they’re pretty big. – The little egg capsule
holds between one to five baby worms. Every three months your
worm population will double. Of course worms
are hermaphroditic, so they’re both a male,
female in the one worm, but you need two worms
for reproduction. And each worm during
a mating will then lay an egg capsule. They don’t remove weed
seed, that’s for sure, so if you’ve got weeds,
the weeds will grow. What we’re shooting
for, is in the end, it looks like that. They’ll bite through
some pineapple in there, it’s just not quite ready
for them to eat yet. I wouldn’t do pineapple
in an indoor plastic bin, just because sometimes
the acidity of it gets to be too much, for them,
in that small environment. Here they’ve got plenty
of places to move, and if it would rain
it would be better, it would make it a
little bit wetter, but you can see once
you dig down in there, it’s actually just
kind of that nice, moisture. – Everybody’s holding
on to recycling. – Yeah, yeah, and
so like I said, they won’t come up to
the top because it’s dry, but they’ll work
down underneath. And you get a cool day
when it’s a little rainier, you come in and maybe dig it
up and flip it a little bit, if you want. – When it goes through the worm, a couple of amazing
things happen to it. The first amazing thing
happens to it is that it is concentrated. So the nutrients that
come out of the worm, the stuff that comes out of
the back end of the worm, the worm castings, are completely different
than what goes into the worm. So they have more
phosphorous, more potash, more nitrogen, they’ve
got more of everything. Because the worm
concentrates them. – What we love about
the castings though, is if you side dress plants,
or if you do any of that, it doesn’t heat. So you don’t have to
worry about any of that, say with a chemical, if you
put it on you might burn you plant, but the worm
castings wouldn’t do that. – Right. – So when we do have castings
and we’re planting seeds in the garden or whatever, we usually dig our
little row for seeds, and then just sprinkle
castings down in the row, lay the seeds on
top, cover it up. It’s not a very
difficult set up. It’s kind of whatever you fancy, whatever you have,
however you want to do it. – And these red wrigglers
acclimate to indoor tub composting as well. – If you’re doing,
say a tub system. You wouldn’t want to set
it in your yard, let’s say, and leave it like this in
your yard all the time. Just because the sun
would be too much. But this is what my indoor
bins would look like. Here’s that shredded paper,
and you can see the casting that’s beginning, and all
of this dark is worm cast. This bin, I’m trying to think, is probably been going a
couple of weeks as well. – So anything that
looks like actual dirt is actually poop. – Yep, worm poop,
worm cast, yep. But if you dig down in
there and find that avocado then you find the worms, ’cause they love the avocado. Now if you overdo
avocado it’s not good, but this was just an avocado
husk I threw in there, and they just took after it. – Jeez, boy, they don’t mind
hanging out together, either. – Nope, they are
definitely family, a group. And then I go in,
say once a month, and I just kind of
shuffle things around. And then add some
more paper on top. With these bins,
the indoor bins, you really want to make sure
your food scraps buried, ’cause in the house it
will attract fruit flies, and fungus gnats if
they can get to it. So that’s where you only
feed the amount they can eat, say in a week. So you don’t want to take a
bag full of food into here, you’d take a
handful and feed it. And then go check in a
week and put another one, or check every other day, and if they’re eating
on what you put in, like we saw there,
you can add some more. But you don’t want to add
more til they’re eating. – One pound of worms will
eat one pound of kitchen scraps or green waste in a day. So you can have spectacular,
spectacular productions out of worm farms. And the funny
thing is, you know, we like to think the
worms are eating leaves. They don’t eat
any of that stuff. – The worms are eating
the bacteria that are breaking down that food. And if the bacteria
breaking it down faster than the worms can eat, that
what the bacteria have made, you’re gonna end up with
vinegar and alcohol, basically, in the bin, becomes really
detrimental to the worms. So that’s why I always just
feed a little at a time, in this type of a set up. – Everybody should
have a worm bin. If you do it right, you
won’t have any flies, there’s no odor. – Now this one,
you can barely see, there’s a little bit
of a growth on it, which is called the clitellum. Which is where the
reproductive organs are. The head is always
closer to that growth, that reproductive organ. Worms don’t have teeth, so
they can’t actually bite. They just basically eat the
sludge that the bacteria and other microorganisms
have produced when they’re breaking down
any of the compostable material. – And the rest of it
just goes right through their system, but
they break it down. You know, they have gizzard,
and they add calcium, beautiful. Worms are spectacular. – But they can go for a
couple days where you don’t really see any
evidence of scraps? – Well they could go for
a month without being fed, actually. ‘Cause they’ll eat the
paper as their food source. – Okay. – So but if you’re wanting
to keep a nice lively active colony, basically,
of your worms, you’d want to keep feeding
them a little at a time. About the amount of paper
that we have in there, in six months, should
look like that. – It comes out in a
almost a structural form. Again, not in square
little bricks, but in nice little
particles that are jagged and so there’s air space. You know, they’re
great structurally, they’re even in better in
terms of their mineral content. They’re absolutely the
best thing you can possibly have. – And then I put that
out and I sort the worms, as many as I can, out of that. But if you look in
here, you will see that there are plenty of
worms that are still, you’re never gonna get them all. – If you keep worm castings,
about anywhere from 30 to 50 days, there’s no
E. coli in them whatsoever. – And of course it
smells wonderful. There’s a dirt. – There’s such a, oh it
does, it smells really good. – And that’s an extremely
finished product. If you don’t want it
quite so finished, if you can imagine that being
about halfway composted, you could use it in your
garden ’cause you’re just adding the paper
and stuff in there, and worms will just
keep working on it. – Red wrigglers are spectacular. Nightcrawlers are not good. So you want to use the
right kind of worm, yeah. – The basic garden worms
and those nightcrawlers that we have in the
ground will dig tunnels. So they like to go say 12
foot down into the ground in their tunnel, and they live in their tunnel. So they’ll come up to
the surface to grab some decaying matter, take it
back to the tunnel to eat it. The red wriggler, is probably
your best composting worm. And it just composts,
it works in that say, upper two feet of
compostable material, so that’s about all the
more you’re gonna have in one of these bins. – They’re easily domesticated. (laughing) – Yeah, they’re hard to tag. (upbeat pipe music) (clattering) – In Jackson, the cost of
hauling garbage to Idaho, has given rise to a serious
waste diversion program. (clattering) – So in Teton County, we
divert 34% of our waste stream away from the landfill. And of that 34%, 15,000 tons, that’s 15,000 tons
that’s being diverted, and of that 9,000
tons are just compost. And so right now,
that’s just yard waste, and dimensional
lumber, and manure. – Their composting is
handled by a public-private partnership with
Terra Firma Organics. – We manage the compost
operations as a service. So like your trash guy
would haul the trash away, we accept it and we
turn it into a product. Our promise to the community
is A we can get them a lower price of
waste management. Which currently, I believe
we’re one of the lowest cost for trash in
this community. So we’re cheaper than
trash, for example. We’re cheaper than
recycling a plastic bottle. We’re the cheapest form
of mass waste management in this community. – And the environmental
payoff to organic waste diversion is huge. – When organics go in
the trash it’s no good. Organics as they, when
they go into landfill, and degrade anaerobically,
they produce methane. Methane’s a greenhouse
gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. So we want to keep
that out of the trash, and there’s no reason
for us to haul organics 100 miles when we can process
it here in the valley. – And hosting collection
events helps raise awareness while increasing diversion. – So we run two events a year, where we say, okay, we’re
collecting your yard waste, town of Jackson in Teton County, and we’re offering
free collection. You bring it to us,
we’ll take care of it. And it’s amazing, the
response has been amazing. The last three events we’ve
collected nearly 100 tons in a matter of days. – The end product is
tons of quality compost. – We produce products that
otherwise locally would be shipped in, in plastic
bags and things that end up blowing over the place. And we provide a premium
bulk product for somewhere around a third to a half
the price that you could buy it at the box stores. – They own that, so they
have skin in the game, and they sell that from
another location here in the valley. – We’re always thinking
of the back side, the marketing side, because without a good
marketing component for moving your product, the front side
it’s more at risk. If you can’t move the back,
you don’t even want to bring it in. We’ve seen facilities, I’ve
visited so many facilities throughout the U.S. I’ve seen facilities where
product is given away free, and I am shocked
that people do that. Mainly because of
just economics 101. If you say a product is free, people usually don’t want it. If you say it’s $15, they
say, well will you take 10? That’s 10 more dollars
than you would have gotten when it was free. And they’re excited about it. So our product currently
sells out every year. And we’re actually trying
to expand so we can take on more. So as you can see in this
yard, we’ve segregated piles. There’s a couple
reasons we do that. This we would sell off and
not use in our compost, and this makes up
probably 50% of the entire waste at the Jackson
Hole facility. If you pan over here
you can see this pile is what the finished product,
or one step in the finished product. There’s another one over
there, you may not be able to get a glance of,
but the blonde stuff. That’s been reprocessed down. This goes out to like
the Home Depot supply operations that color it
and sell it to those groups. So we’ve marketed it to
those groups for that. We could compost it, it’s still a carbon product. It’s not that much different
than the brush that we’ll talk about next. The other reason that
we separate this is that on average the moisture
content of kiln dried lumber is somewhere around 11%. So when we start to get
into the composting process, a term we use is homogenize. So when we want to
homogenize our piles, when we go into our pre-blends, we want to try and match
our nitrogen and our carbon as best we can. The nitrogen’s coming
in somewhere around 50%, the brush usually is coming
in somewhere around 30% up to 50% depending on if
it came out of a forest project or not. This at 11. Takes a lot more moisture
to get up to that point. I assume in time, as
we go into food waste, we will probably move
towards this material as a compost component. Because it can absorb
a lot of the moisture that comes with the food waste. The food waste is probably
going to come in somewhere in that 80 plus
range in moisture. So we feel that this could
be pretty good component to blend with that. Over here, we have
our brush pile. We’re pretty adamant
about not accepting soils in this pile. You can see there is a
little bit of soil here. That driver was told
how to fix the problem, he goes off and
tries to do that. If people come in and
want to dump trash, or want to dump soil, what we believe in
is we don’t say no. We say, at what cost? So if you just don’t
care, that’s okay, it just costs you more money. We’re not here really to
be the trash men for the town, organic operations. I’ve seen those done
in other communities, and it’s really hard to
get trash out when people don’t have any incentive
to get trash out. But normally we’d
have our grass pile, which is our nitrogen. We’d have our brush pile,
which is our carbon. We would blend those at an
a proprietary blend ratio, that goes into what
we call pre-blend, which is the pile you see
over here to your left. And then from here it
will go into what we call hydration. The hydrating will be a
large tractor that comes in, it goes through, blends
it up in a big blending type mechanism, that’s shooting
water into the material, getting it up to a 50% moisture, and then we go into
static management. We don’t do windrow
processing here. But it’s a very finished
product, smell it. What’s that smell like? – Dirt. – Exactly. Good compost, finished compost, looks, smells and
feels like dirt. If it looks like horse
manure, it’s probably horse manure. If it smells like horse
manure, it’s probably horse manure. It’s a very stable, there’s
not a lot of carbon left, there’s hardly
any nitrogen left. Which is kind of a big
misnomer when people buy compost, they’re like, oh, I need that to
fertilize my yard, I’m like, well,
it’s not fertilizer. It’s not, there’s
hardly any nitrogen, no top producer in this product. – But depending on
management and inputs, a feed lot based manure system, can finish with higher
levels of nitrogen. – Often, and not
always, but often, a manure based or a
food waste based compost will be higher nitrogen,
lower carbon, typically. Whereas yard waste if there’s
a lot of shredded branches and woodchips and
various things in it, it will often be a higher
carbon, lower nitrogen type of material. And so it’s, sometimes
you need extra nitrogen to balance it out in the field. Or maybe it just takes
longer to break down, or it’s better used as
a mulch as opposed to incorporated as
a soil amendment. – It adds some crumb
structure to the soil, it helps so it’s not too tight, and it also continues
to feed it a little bit, it gives it a little
bit more to break down. So, as the bugs in the
soil, and as they’re getting more nitrogen from
the atmosphere, we’ve still got a little
bit of carbon in there, we’ve still got more to happen. – But in Jackson, there’s
another high nitrogen input on the horizon. – In 2020, we’re going
to establish a municipal industrial food waste
composting facility here. And so when we’re able
to bring on food waste, it’s even gonna be a
much larger impact. – And with Teton County’s
four million tourists a year, there’s a
big opportunity. – As we’ve been
around the community, engaged interest and
tried to identify who’s gonna be psyched to do this, the Jackson Hole
Mountain Resort, they would do it tomorrow
if we could do it. Because that’s going
to save them money by not throwing
food in the trash, trash fees around
here are pretty high, so the less trash they
make, the less they pay. And so they’re in, the
hospital is very interested. We’re hopefully speaking
with the school district, to get support from them. And then of course
the restaurants, we’ve talked to several
restaurants in town that are real interested in not
throwing food waste away. – It’s very much a part
of a growing mindset, in Jackson and beyond. – To me, it’s just
never been an option. We had to, we have
to do something, and we have to do
everything we can. And you know, I’m really luck
that I’ve got so much support, from my company and
the community and the way we sort of interact
with our surroundings. I mean we live in
an amazing place, and so we really have to
be extra mindful about the impacts we put on it. – Initially we’ll just
target the bigger producers. That’s where you
get your numbers. You know, it’s not so
much the Mom and Pop, that’s separating a sandwich
here and a pop bottle there, it’s the industry that’s
delivering 10,000 sandwiches to the park, and when, you
know, a percentage go back, they’re already
set up to just go (whooshing) and it comes here. We did a study to find
out if we did this, what is the low hanging
fruit provide us, between a school, one of the
largest hotels in the state, two stores and a
couple of restaurants. We diverted their
waste stream by 50% That’s massive. And that was not post-consumer,
that was pre-consumer. That’s nothing coming
back on the plate, that’s everything
before it goes out. – So this is one of the bins, the ones up top are on rollers, because that kitchen’s
a lot bigger. And so there’s a lot
more workstations, so they’ll just take
it around with them. This one’s nice and small, so they just get to keep
it like, right here, and it’s nice, good size. And yeah, right now,
looks like some tomatoes, some watermelon peel,
some habaneros, avocados. So we got a, looks like
he’s making a little salsa salad going right here. (laughing) It was actually really easy. We had enough of the
infrastructure already set just because of the natural
way we have to do things. That when we introduced
the food waste component, it was just like, my
warehouse manager Dan’s just like, eh, red bin,
black bin, green bin, I don’t care. (laughing) – To me it starts
with source reduction. So getting away from as
much of the packaging and all those kinds of things. It kind of all starts there. – I don’t think we should
change a thousand people, or a million people’s minds
on how they deal with trash. We should change the design
of how we accept our trash. Using compostable products. So, not allowing, for example, a good one would
be plastic bags. It’s a horrible use, right. It’s a stupid design,
they work great, but, they might end up down, because they just
end up everywhere, and we can’t get them out,
and then they’re in the ocean, and da, da, da, da, da, da, da, it’s this problem, right? So our goal is just
to start helping with the buying side to say, what of this can go into
a compost operation, and not affect it negatively? ‘Cause how cool would it
be if you could bring in, let’s say from a school, where everything on the
plate was compostable. Including your plate,
maybe, who knows? And it just, they
scrape it off, whoosh, and all of that can come to us. There’s not a lot of
cost and process to get that material cleaned up, we then can compost it
at half the price you can take it to the landfill for, and we have products
to sell locally, it’s a win-win for everyone. – What’s important for anyone
that’s looking to do this, including myself, is to be honest with
what you can accomplish, and not go too far and
promise, oh no, no, it’s not going to stink,
we’re not gonna have problems, we’re not gonna have
vector issues with bear and other things, so, the challenge is
going to be receiving, dealing with the
product that stinks, and then getting
contamination out, because it’s one thing
to pick plastic out of not very stinky wood, but to pick plastic out of
stinky rotten sandwiches? It’s pretty gross. Again, back to your
question of the challenge, is going to be on the
receiving side because we’re surrounded by
bears, and birds. How do we manage that? We’re probably going to
have to do some kind of small enclosure. That enclosure will
have reversed air flow, that will pull air
off of the pile, and run it through a biofilter, which looks very similar
to this wood pile, it’ll just be air that comes
underneath a bed of chips, and it diffuses it
through the chips, and it’s filtering out
all those little molecules and things, and over time we
change that out, but it basically degregates it, and it cleans the air, and then that material
goes into blending, very similar as our other, and then it will go into
a aerated static pile, and that’s just forced
air, underground, it’s pushing air
through it all the time, we want an aerated pile
so it degregates faster and doesn’t produce methane gas. That’s really the goal
at which we go for. – But every little
advancement you can make, people are like, oh,
alright, that’s cool, let’s do that, you know. So it’s just, it’s getting
people excited about it. And keeping them
excited about it. – It’s going to be
really working with who wants to be a part of this. And our goal is to convince
the convincable at first, and work the people that
care and want to do this. So yeah, we’ve come to
realize how important education and outreach is, and it shows, when you put
concerted effort into that you notice immediately. – To watch and learn
more about this and other episodes of Farm
to Fork Wyoming, go online to This episode of Farm to
Fork Wyoming is available for $25. Order online at This program was
produced by Wyoming PBS, which is solely responsible
for its content.

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