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Field Trip the Farm

Original Post 2015. 2018 Edit: The Farm rebranded in 2017 with a new name, Blue Ribbon Organics, keeping the same great partnership and service.

The Kompost Kids’ partnership with Blue Ribbon Organics (formerly The Farm) in Caledonia goes back nearly to our founding. For years, they have helped us finish our rough compost into a fine-screened soil product suitable for large-scale donations to new community gardens and schools. They accept our annual organics diversion from the Bay View Bash. They’ve been a vigorous supporter of our programs and mission in Milwaukee. With all that in mind, we took a long-overdue field trip to the site where all the magic happens to learn more about composting at the large scale.

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Blue Ribbon Organics (formerly The Farm) Composting in Caledonia, WI. November 2015.

Owners Dave and James Jutrzonka have converted their family-run nursery and landscaping business into a full-time compost processer, capable of accepting more than 40,000 cubic yards of yard trimmings and 5 million pounds of food scraps annually. Municipal leaves and yard collection from Racine and other municipalities get mixed in precise proportions with intake from area grocery stores and restaurants to form a compost product that is second to none. The facility is the only compost site of its size that is actively accepting food scraps in the area, a point of pride, as owner-operator James explains it. Even the tenacious little produce stickers that make it through his trommel screen serve as proof to discerning customers that food scraps are part of his nitrogen-rich soil mix.

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A large curing pile to retain warmth.

The sprawling facility is organized, tidy, and remarkably free of odors. James takes seriously the responsibility to keep the site friendly to the neighbors and even times his turning schedule to correspond with the wind patterns. He is extremely careful about the contents of the loads coming into his tipping pad and scrutinizes material for trash contamination and other packaging that lurks beneath his piles, often handpicking out plastic and other unsavories. Material is mixed and loaded into windrows, long mounds ranging from 10-12 high and 15-20 feet wide, where the composting process activates for several weeks between turnings.

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Final product is crumbly and earth-smelling.

After the composting process completes, the material is moved to a curing area for an additional length of time. This crucial period helps ensure the quality of his final product, which is sold both in cubic-foot bags at retailers like Outpost Natural Foods and in bulk by the yard.

Compost is on the move in metro Milwaukee, and Jutrzonka was an early adopter. His ability to innovate in his process, willingness to experiment with new materials from different sources, and openness to emerging product markets like vermicast will no doubt serve the composter well, as landfill costs continue to rise and more municipalities and businesses turn to organics retrieval as the right choice for both the environment and the bottom line.

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Our gang with owner James Jutrzonka on November 7, 2015.

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  1. Pingback: Make Dirt, Not Trash: Our Roots – Milwaukee Area Science Advocates

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