Composting “waste” produced by the farm is a key way to build the health of our soil. One of the things we have a lot of is the crushed olive paste that comes out of the mill. With the olive oil removed, the remainder is the a skin, pits and fruit of the olives. Mixed in with other elements from around the farm, such as animal manures, and shredded branches and leaves, this can create a wonderful compost. It takes a while to break down, but once it’s done, we get a rich black compost. Each scoop brings a fantastic array of life and nutrients to our soil.  

Compost, simply put, is a mixture of ingredients used as plant fertilizer and to improve soil's physical, chemical and biological properties. It is commonly prepared by decomposing plant, food waste, recycling organic materials and manure. The resulting mixture is rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms, such as bacteria, protozoa, nematodes and fungi.

Compost improves soil fertility in gardenslandscapinghorticultureurban agriculture, and organic farming, reducing dependency on commercial chemical fertilizers.  At the simplest level, composting requires gathering a mix of 'greens' (green waste) and 'browns' (brown waste).   Greens are materials rich in nitrogen such as leaves, grass, and food scraps.  Browns are woody materials rich in carbon, such as stalks, paper, and wood chips.  The materials break down into humus in a process taking months.    

Compost Pile Steaming

Composting can be a multi-step, closely monitored process with measured inputs of water, air, and carbon- and nitrogen-rich materials. The decomposition process is aided by shredding the plant matter, adding water, and ensuring proper aeration by regularly turning the mixture in a process using open piles.  Fungiearthworms, and other detritivores further break up the organic material. Aerobic bacteria and fungi manage the chemical process by converting the inputs into heat, carbon dioxide, and ammonium.

Composting is an important part of waste management, since food and other compostable materials make up about 20% of waste in landfills, and these materials take longer to biodegrade in the landfill.  Composting offers an environmentally superior alternative to using organic material for landfill because composting reduces anaerobic methane emissions, and provides economic and environmental co-benefits.  Here at our farm, the math is simple.  We have a lot of left over material from pruning trees, cutting weeds, and milling olives.  We’d rather turn that into a useful input than spend time and money disposing of it, only to them spend time and money trucking in fertilizer and soil builders.  Using one output as an input for another system is a great way to go.

Look at the steam pouring off the piles in this video. It shows just how hot they are from all the microbial activity.