Like all good systems, composting begins and ends with the Earth. Full Circle Compost in Carson City, Nevada, certainly understands that. They have their roots in the soil, and are now helping to save our soils around the state – and combat waste into the bargain.
They do say that what goes around comes around, all too often, soil practices have not properly cared for the health of our soils. By not adding humus with active microbial life back into the soil we are often contributing to the damage of our soils. We now need to safeguard them for future generations so we can depend on our soils for continued food production.
Composting is crucial. It allows us to take natural, biodegradable material and turn it into a valuable fertilizer and soil amendment. Composting is nature's way of closing the loop. It happens naturally in a range of ecosystems. But where we humans have shaped the environment to meet our needs, we need to play our own part in closing the loop. Composting is one important way of allowing nature's cycles to play out as they should.
Composting is especially crucial in an arid state like ours. Adding a layer of organic compost to growing areas not only improves fertility. It also helps to reduce moisture loss from the soil, and prevents erosion. It protects the fragile soil web and allows all its organisms to do their jobs.
What is Full Circle Compost?
Full Circle compost are a family-run operation. The family's ancestors were dairy farmers in Germany, and moved to the US in 1870. Their composting efforts began on their farm as a way to deal with the manure from their cattle, and to built the fertility of the crops grown to feed their herd. They practiced the same methods carried out on many farms and homesteads.
But in the 1980s, on a different site, Craig Witt started thinking bigger. After they moved to their present site in 1997, they began producing compost on a commercial scale. They were the first composting facility in Nevada to receive a permit for such an enterprise. In fact, the permit was created just for them.
Craig Witt understood the importance of a good compost. He travelled around the world to learn everything he could about the art and science of compost creation. Cody, Craig's son, joined the operation and now continues the good work and overall management of Full Circle Compost.
Recycling From Different Sources
Many of us can compost on a small scale. But Full Circle Compost makes municipal recycling achievable. They don't just turn farm or garden waste into compost. They recycle a wide range of different source materials. Brush from forest clear ups, yard waste from Carson City, agricultural hay, other by-products, and some food waste all go into the compost they create.
All in all, Full Circle Compost recycles 40,000 cubic yards of material each year (enough to cover an area the size of a football field piled to 14 ½ feet high) – turning it into a high quality and incredibly useful compost. All that material has been saved from landfills. And the composting process allows all the nutrients it contains to be channelled back into our soils.
Saving all that organic material from landfills doesn't just give us valuable compost. It also dramatically cuts toxic gas emissions – helping us keep our air cleaner to breath. When waste ends up in landfill, it often decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen). Aside from making it very smelly, this also releases methane – which is a gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. By composting it aerobically instead, all those emissions are avoided.
Creating the Perfect Compost
But at Full Circle Compost, they are not satisfied with simply making compost. They are dedicated to making the best, most biologically active compost possible. Craig Witt worked tirelessly, while building his compost methods after having travelled the world and studied five major soil scientist theories, to make the perfect compost.
To create the perfect compost, they pay attention to all the essential elements for good compost creation. They add minerals (such as gypsum and limestone), just the right amount of water, and inoculate the compost with mycorrhizal fungi – organisms that help break down the material. Everything is perfectly tailored to allow the soil biological organisms, essential to healthy decomposition, to thrive.
Kelp seaweed is added to deliver a range of micro-nutrients that are crucial to good plant health, and other natural fertilizers like molasses to feed micro-organisms and keep your garden or farm growing strong.
Periodically, they have their compost tested to make sure the product is of the highest standards. Nutrient and organic matter levels are closely monitored, the compost is kept free of weed seeds, and it checked for chemicals, heavy metals, pathogens and other contaminants. They are very careful about the materials composted and their efforts assure safe products. For all their efforts, they have been awarded the US Composting Council Seal of Assurity.
Composting on this scale takes a lot of work. Very expensive equipment is needed to turn the large windrows of composting waste. Massive tractors also turn huge static compost piles on site. It takes around 6-8 months to make the compost.
But all of that hard work is well worthwhile. They blend the compost using various recipes to make different composts and mulches for different uses. And we can then use it in our gardens and on our farms to care for the soil and grow our plants.
Just spread ¼ to ½ inch of this compost on the top of the soil, and it will feed, sustain and protect the soil ecosystem beneath. With just this small amendment, you can create thriving growing areas and we can all continue to grow the food we all need.
But as you garden or farm, don't forget the efforts of Full Circle Compost and other composting heroes who make that possible!