From the Farmer

Veteran compost

Published on Community

Veteran compost

When Justen Garrity returned from Iraq to a flailing job market, he had trouble getting anyone to give him the time of day for a job interview. So, after searching around for a while, he decided to look into starting his own business instead. He began gravitating towards starting a business focused around sustainability and entertained the idea of recycling. With a lot of people recycling metal, electronics, plastic, and other conventional things, Justen found a void in the system - no one was composting. After a bit more research, he learned that two thirds of everything thrown away in America is actually compostable, which meant a lot of potential for filling this void with a business opportunity. 

Though no customers were lined up yet, Justen had a business plan in hand to offer residential and small business compost pick-up for those looking to recycle food scraps for nutrient-rich soil and reduce food piling into landfills. By focusing on hiring veterans, also, Justen hoped to offer an option that would take away from the frustrating job market he had experienced. So, he took the leap on what would become Veteran Compost (VC) by signing a lease for a 30 acre farm in Aberdeen, MD in July 2010.  

Over the last 5+ years, VC has refined a Positive Aerated Static Pile system, which provides adequate oxygen and control of the compost pile's temperature through management of the amount and direction of airflow. Each day, food scraps are combined with wood chips, then place in large piles 6 ft high and 30 ft wide. Every 10-12 ft a perforated pipe is inserted, which is connected to an electric blower. By running the blower on a timer that turns on and off according to the calculated air flow, the pile is broken down quickly and efficiently, while reaching upwards of 140 degrees as scraps break down. 
Veteran compost
After about 4 weeks, the material is broken down and ready for screening and final curing. VC lets the screened compost rest and cure for about 3-4 months to ensure its cooled down and mature - making it the perfect food for the garden! 
“The people are the best part. I really enjoy the team that we have working for us now - almost exclusively veterans and family members of veterans.  ”

Though the process of composting is pretty interesting, Justen says the best part is really the people. "The people are the best part.  I really enjoy the team that we have working for us now - almost exclusively veterans and family members of veterans.  And the customers, which range from chefs needing help composting their scraps to farmers on the other end who need help improving their soil." 

To accommodate the sprawling metro area, VC eventually expanded to include another composting facility in Clifton, VA, at Whitehall Farm - with two more sites in Maryland that they're working on permitting and building now. While they manage all material picked up from the DC metro area at the Clifton facility, any material coming in from Baltimore/Annapolis is brought into their Aberdeen facility. 

Interested in composting at your own home? VC offers convenient food scrap pick-up, covering a large area across DC metro. Anyone who mentions this article at sign-up will get a free compost tea bag, which makes 5 gallons of compost tea - perfect for your springtime gardening!