The Recycling Council of Alberta (RCA) has released An Introductory Guide to On-Farm Composting for farmers, ranchers and landowners interested in learning more about the opportunities they have to build processing capacity for organics generated by municipalities and businesses.
This project aims to connect urban and rural communities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by organic waste while building soil health.
The guide follows a case study of Central Alberta’s Stickland Farms that has been processing food scraps and biosolids into nutrient-rich compost for its fields. It includes links to key documents and regulatory requirements, a site layout and overview of each processing area, benefits and challenges with different processing methods, tips on how to manage odour, and a summary of key nutrient benefits.
“We have traditionally looked at composting as a solution to a waste management problem. That approach is fraught with issues because we need a place for the resulting materials to go,” said RCA executive director, Christina Seidel.
“Through this project, we looked at compost as a resource and where it is best used – on farms. Compost improves the soil and is a valuable resource for farmers.”
Approximately 2.2 million tonnes of organic waste is sent to landfills each year by Canadians (Love Food Hate Waste, 2019). If Albertans diverted their food scraps to be composted, there would be an estimated 238 thousand tonnes of CO2 emission savings annually – the equivalent of taking 52,000 passenger vehicles off the road each year.
The guide establishes basic information about setting up an on-farm composting operation, including the regulations to follow, and processes for managing organics. By applying compost, farmers can reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers, increase crop yields, and improve overall soil quality.
“Organic matter is extremely important to the health of our soils,” shares John Paul of Transform Compost Systems, a key consultant on the project. “There are nutrient benefits along with the life compost creates within our soils. Compost balances pH, increases water retention and adds disease resistance through the formation of a healthy community of microbes.”
As part of the launch, the RCA has shared the Guide on its website and plans to host two webinars titled “Introduction to On-Farm Composting” and “Alberta On-Farm Composting Operators”. These are free webinars and groups from all communities are invited to attend. The RCA has also launched a podcast with more details about the project and the overall benefits of compost.
The project has been supported by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. It is a five-year, $3-billion federal-provincial-territorial investment in the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector that began in April 2018. In Alberta, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership represents a federal – provincial investment of $406 million in strategic programs and initiatives for the agricultural sector.