1. Voluntary Activities that Merit the “Completing the Cycle Award”
Betteravia Farms has earned the “Completing the Cycle Award” for its commitment to recycling of their organic waste stream. Since 1995 Betteravia Farms has made use of the Engel & Gray Inc. Regional Composting Facility to compost material from its farming and packing operations. They annually chop asparagus ferns in the field and haul them to the composting facility for processing. After an asparagus fern is trimmed, the plant will produce asparagus shoots that are subsequently cut and packaged for shipment to market. During packaging operations, additional waste cuttings are generated that are in turn hauled to the composting facility for inclusion in the recycling process.
Compost is created from the decomposition and recombining of various forms of organic material such as leaves, grass, wood, refuse, and agricultural byproducts. Organic matter is absolutely essential to the sustenance of soil life and fertility. Inherent in these decaying residues are the living microorganisms that decompose, or digest, them. Microscopic life forms (bacteria and fungi) in the soil effect a conversion process. The resulting material, and the primary component of compost, is called humus. As humus is formed, nitrogen becomes an integral part of its structure. Since the nitrogen and other essential nutrient compounds in humus are resistant to decomposition, this is nature’s way of stabilizing these important resources in the soil. They are absorbed and digested slowly by soil organisms, rather than being rapidly dissolved and dissipated.
After a rigorous and efficient composting process, Betteravia Farms purchases the composted product back for blending into the fields of the Santa Maria Valley. Once the compost is added to the soil, the humus acts as a source of nutrient absorption and exchange for plants in the soil. As plant roots grow through the soil in search of nutrients, they feed off the humus. The root actually "trades" with the humus, exchanging some of its positively charged hydrogen ions for positively charged nutrient ions adsorbed onto the surface of the humus. An active exchange takes place between humus and roots. The plants "choose" which nutrients they need to balance their own internal chemistry. The addition of the compost helps stabilize the nutrients existing in the soil, making them more readily available for exchange by plants.
2. Environmental Benefits of the Activities.
The environmental benefits of this program are profound:
1. The beneficial use saves hundreds of yards of landfill space each year.
2. The compost stabilizes nitrogen in the soil and reduces nitrogen leaching which in turn protects groundwater sources.
3. The use of synthetic fertilizers is significantly reduced.
4. The water holding capacity of the soil is improved, reducing leaching and therefore preventing the contamination of underground water and runoff water sources (often called “non-point” pollution).
5. By increasing soil fertility, water demand is reduced, which in turn reduces precious irrigation water consumption.
6. Longterm compost use can reduce soil borne pests, thus reducing the use of pesticides.
7. The use of compost reduces soil erosion.
8. The compost process kills pathogens in the waste material, preventing possible environmental contamination.
9. Composting replenishes nutrients in the soil, increases soil fertility, and increases organic matter.
3. Benefits to the Goals of Recycling
Recycling, as the word implies, is a cycle. It is comprised of three steps represented by the familiar “chasing arrows” symbol: collection, processing/composting, and purchasing. Betteravia Farms truly completes the cycle by practicing all three components of the cycle. Betteravia Farms exemplifies the spirit of recycling by engaging in projects which improve the environment, not only for themselves, but for the entire Central Coast. Through their efforts, they demonstrate clearly that Betteravia Farms believes in environmental stewardship, taking care of the land and being a good neighbor.