Farm Focus: Feeding Our Compost

At Frog Hollow, we don’t have cattle like TomKat ranch, but we have our own systems to sequester carbon and regenerate our soil. We use our farm resources to add a diversity of microbial life to our soil through our robust compost operation.

Throughout the summer months there are hundreds of pounds of fruit residues that we collect on a daily basis from our packing shed, our kitchen and our fruit drying yard. The residues are the pits, the skins, and any flesh that is too damaged to pack or use in the kitchen. This residue is placed into our compost pile and sweetens the pile. It turns out people aren’t the only creatures that like sweet fruit. The bacteria in our pile love sugar.

The branches we prune during the winter and spring months are collected and shred into wood chips. These chips are high in carbon. We combine the branches with a neighboring farm’s horse bedding which is high in nitrogen. When we combine the sugars from our fruit residues with the nitrogen and carbon rich inputs from our wood and horse bedding, we activate the microbial decomposition process and the organic matter in the pile starts heating up.

We monitor the pile for 3-5 weeks where we maintain a temperature between 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit. During the period of decomposition, we are also monitoring and maintaining the ideal levels of moisture in the pile. According to CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) codes, we aerate or turn the pile 5 times.

When we create our ratios of sugar, nitrogen and carbon sources for the piles, the woody and carbon rich material constitutes the largest percentage of our inputs. Trees prefer compost which is dominant in fungal species, and the woody materials are the favorite foods of fungal microbial populations.

Our compost feeds our trees nutrients that in turn produce sweeter and more nutrient dense fruits; it increases soil tilth and the water holding capacity of the soil, helping protect us from drought; and it helps sequester carbon. Carbon sequestration in soil has been recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as one of the possible measures through which greenhouse gas emissions can be mitigated. Our compost operation is a win win for our farm, for you and for our planet.

We are looking forward to TomKat Ranch’s visit to Frog Hollow in early July. We can’t wait to geek out on our compost operation with like minded stewards of the soil!

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