If community involvement is one of the cornerstones of sustainability, Stemilt Growers Inc. has it covered. In compost.
Since early spring, the Wenatchee, Wash.-based fruit grower-shipper has partnered with Waste Management to receive all the organic waste the city’s residents place curbside for weekly green bin pickup.
The waste is ground at Stemilt’s downtown recycling center, a former pear packinghouse, and trucked up the hill to make compost for the company’s cherry and some apple orchards, vice president of marketing Roger Pepperl said.
Residents and landscapers are also invited to bring larger items, such as old trees, directly to the recycling center, where they’re reduced to sawdust and added to the pile.
Each week, 10 tractor-trailer loads of waste are trucked uphill to Stemilt’s compost farm, where it’s transformed into steaming black soil, Pepperl said.
Some of the finished compost is sold to local residents, and some is trucked two and a half hours to Seattle to be sold there.
Before heading home, the empty trucks stop by Seattle’s fishery to load up on oyster and crab shells, which are ground into calcium back in Wenatchee and mixed with the compost.
“Plants can’t get enough calcium,” he said, “but it’s hard to get it into their root system.
“This is one way to do it.”
Fourth-generation cherry grower Kyle Mathison, son of Stemilt’s late founder Tom, placed ads in the local paper inviting locals to sign up for the waste pickup and help produce the Wenatchee Valley’s fruit.
Stemilt also is adding water-soluble fertilizers to its computerized drip irrigation system.
“Fertigation applies the water right to the source so you’re reducing the amount of fertilizer per acre but keeping the amount per tree high,” he said.