LaGrange County has had a flourishing livestock industry for many years. Residents in the county have produced chickens, eggs, ducks, milk, and hogs in numbers that are notable not only in Indiana, but even on a national level.
In November 2012, local livestock producers met with members of the LaGrange County Plan Commission to discuss the county’s livestock regulations as found in the LaGrange County Zoning Ordinance. While everyone recognizes the economic potential of this agricultural endeavor, many are worried about what large numbers of farm animals on limited acreage might do to the local environment. Finding ways to positively utilize the manure and bedding associated with livestock production is a challenge in a place like LaGrange County, where both human and animal population is ever increasing.
In meeting with local livestock producers since that time, the LaGrange County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has found that there is significant local interest in composting animal waste. True composting is not just piling manure until time and resources allow opportunity to deal with it. Composting takes organic waste like manure, spoiled hay or straw, grass clippings, sawdust, wood chips, and even the bodies of dead animals and, through a carefully controlled process of balancing temperature, carbon-nitrogen ratio, and other factors of decomposition, turns the result into a rich, stable, and fairly homogenous organic material that makes wonderful fertilizer for gardens, lawns and farm fields.
Composting takes time, patience, space, and, when done on a large scale, large and sometimes specialized equipment. Investment in terms of time and energy is required to produce high quality compost. The return, however, comes in turning problem waste into a valuable resource. Proper composting not only solves the problem of what to do with waste material like manure and bedding, but when done properly, also manages odor associated with decomposition as well.
As a response to this local interest in composting, the SWCD has been working with Purdue Extension to schedule a visit to a large composting facility, Tuthill Farms and Composting, Inc.
A family owned and operated farm since 1833, the business is located west of Detroit and north of Ann Arbor, Mich. In 1995, the family started looking at ways to maintain their farm in an area that was rapidly becoming more and more urbanized from growth from both these metropolitan areas.
They started accepting various types of organic material such as yard waste, mixing it with manure, and began using the resulting compost to add to the fertility and organic matter of the soil in their crop fields. Currently, they are accepting 20,000 cubic yards of organic matter for composting annually. They still use some of the resulting compost for their own fertility program, but they also package and sell a large amount of this material as commercial fertilizer. The Tuthill family has taken a waste disposal problem and turned it into a successful economic opportunity.
The SWCD and Purdue Extension is planning a trip to this facility on Thursday, Aug. 22. Vans will be leaving from the SWCD office at 8:30 a.m. that morning for a tour of the Tuthill facility at 11 a.m. The tour will stop at noon for lunch (participants must provide on their own). Return time will be approximately 2:30 p.m.
There is no charge to go along for the day, but space is limited on a first come-first served basis. For more information regarding this day trip, or to register to go along for the day, call the SWCD office at 260-463-3471 ext. 3 by Friday, Aug. 16.
Anyone interested in livestock production or composting is invited and encouraged to attend.