Our compost catch-22
Compost is vital for our farm. Compost improves soil structure, provides a wide range of nutrients for crops, adds beneficial microbes to the soil, and increases carbon and nitrogen in the soil. Compost improves soil fertility of our sandy Cape Flats soil. Improving soil fertility increases productivity. Increasing productivity decreases the cost of production. Decreasing cost of production increases farmer income and keeps farmgate price affordable for our customers.
Our compost catch-22 is that we cannot make enough compost on the farm to increase productivity to generate the income to buy compost to improve productivity.
An intervention was needed. But for us this intervention had to meet a key requirement of our small farm operation – to be self-sufficient from off-farm inputs.
Enter the dragon.
The wood chipper.
A wood chipper is a petrol or diesel-driven mechanical machine that shreds tree branches and shrubs into small pieces by passing through rotating blades at a fast pace. The processed material is then piled with manure to make high-quality compost. The shredded pieces allow for fast hot composting- 4 to 5 weeks from start to finish.
Material to chip
The farm generates a lot of plant material- weeds, residue of crops, grass, tree and shrub trimmings- that we compost. Now that we have a chipper that material can be chipped and turned into compost faster. But we will need more material if we going to make the amount of compost we need to improve the Cape Flats sandy soils we work with. For this we inviting surrounding communities and garden services to drop off their green waste on the farm. This material ends up in landfill. We have already prepared a block on the farm to increase our capacity to make compost.
Dragon for hire
Let’s recycle green waste and prevent it from going to the landfills where is creates methane gas that is more dangerous to the environment than CO2. The chipper is expensive to run and maintain. We hope to hire the dragon to homeowners, business and community groups to subsidise the running costs. In this way, we hope to make the dragon available at very low cost to small-scale farmers and food growers who struggle with compost. Our vision is that every small farm and food garden can become a green waste depot for the neighbourhood’s food and garden waste.
For now, we have solved our compost catch-22. We will concentrate on building our capacity to make good quality compost and in turn increase soil fertility and farm productivity.