Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

F&M Sustainability: Closing the Composting Circle

  • composting sponaugle-williamson field
  • Spreading compost made from Franklin & Marshall College's food waste over Sponaugle-Williamson Field. (Photos by Melissa Hess)

A tractor this spring spread compost made from Franklin & Marshall College's food waste over Sponaugle-Williamson Field. The practice is designed to build healthier turf, but it's also an example of the College's campus-wide efforts at sustainability.

"I have been looking forward to this day, ever since we started discussing composting nearly five years ago," said Ted Schmid, director of grounds at Facilities and Operations. "It's an opportunity to close the composting circle."  

Hummer Turf Grass Systems was the company that applied the organic topdressing, or compost, to the field. Terra-Gro, an Oregon Dairy Organics affiliate, produced the compost from F&M's campus food wastes.

Terra-Gro opened its composting facility in response to a commitment by Lancaster County's farm community, and in particular Oregon Dairy Farm, to practice environmentally sustainable and responsible farming in the Chesapeake Bay region, said Terra-Gro's Loren Martin.

  • composting sponaugle-williamson field

"We compost the cow manure generated at Oregon Dairy Farm and from several additional dairy farms, as well as horse manure from many equine facilities within the Chesapeake Bay region," Martin said. "We add to the manure a variety of food residual materials from sources such as food processors, restaurants, grocery stores, colleges, and agricultural processing."

Martin said the feedstocks are blended to the correct ratio and actively composted in a highly managed windrow system for a three-month composting cycle, during which time Terra-Gro carefully monitors moisture and temperatures of the windrows to ensure the process meets or exceeds federal standards for time/temperature required for pathogen reduction and for the production of high quality finished compost. 

"Our customer base consists of golf course and athletic turf maintenance, landscape contractors, soil blenders, potting soil manufacturers, environmental site work contractors, organic food growers, lawn and garden centers, and others," Martin said.

Martin said Terra-Gro is a member of the U.S. Composting Council and a participant in the council's Seal of Testing Assurance Program, a voluntary testing/compliance program utilizing the composting industry’s highest level of testing and quality assurance standards.