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Composting can change the game for all involved
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Composting is becoming an increasingly more important part of agriculture and solid waste management.

Organic gardeners have long known the value of decomposed food scraps, leaves, hay, grass clippings and more in supplying the necessary nutrients to soil. Now, people concerned with waste disposal are seeing a value in composting. They realize the process can help keep large amounts of material out of landfills and allow it to be used building the nutrient value of agricultural land.

That’s exactly where Marty Grimm has positioned himself. A self-employed computer programmer from Decorah, Iowa, Grimm has embraced the dualistic purpose of composting and is building a business around it.

Grimm already picks up the food waste from 15 restaurants and a few small grocery stores in and around Decorah, Iowa. He composts that material along with yard waste, farm waste, hay, grasses and manure on a three-acre site he’s constructed on rural property he owns near Decorah. The composter has room for about fifteen 60 to 90-foot windrows, which he turns with a specialized self-propelled compost windrower turner. Turning compost is an essential part of the decomposition process.

The machine Grimm uses to turn the compost is built by the Amish in Pennsylvania and is called the Model 100 Compost Windrow Turner. It resembles a small combine.

Grimm started on the composting project two years ago and is now beginning to follow up on his business plan that includes doing custom work for others. He was recently in the Gays Mills area turning compost windrows for Star Valley Flowers. The turning helps to keep the temperature up by mixing the material and allowing oxygen to enter the process.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources requires commercial compost be held at a temperature of 130 degrees for 14 days. This will kill pathogens in the materials. Grimm explained that his finished compost is acceptable for use by certified organic growers.

What happens to the finished product-where does all that compost go?

Well, it goes to about anyone who wants it. Grimm sells five gallon buckets to urban gardeners and delivers a ton by trailer to larger users. He charges $40 per ton. While he’s still not ready for the larger farm applications, that’s a goal.

In addition to selling the compost for horticultural and agricultural use, Grimm also gets the tipping fee from the restaurant or grocery store that would usually have been paid to the waste removal firm.

The local restaurants are really supportive of the project, as is the greater community, according to Grimm.

Sometimes, change is just inevitable. Transforming waste into useful compost was an obvious improvement. It may just take someone like Marty Grimm to propel the process. If it can happen in Decorah, it can happen in Gays Mills. It can also happen in Madison and Milwaukee. That means a lot less material going into landfills and a lot more compost to improve the soil.

For more information about Upper Iowa Organics, Marty Grimm, his compost or his custom composting service you can call 563-419-2222 or e-mail  or you can visit the website