Dirt Hugger is a state-of-the-art organics recycling and soil production facility. Each year we process over 40,000 tons of material into over 15,000 yards of organic soils. We are unique in that we have in-floor aeration technology which temperature controls our compost. Each compost turner also has real-time iPad control over water in order to appropriately control moisture throughout the process. With over 25 pieces of specialized heavy equipment we have built-in redundancy to keep production humming even when things break, which they always do.
FRESH WATER POND
01: COLLECT INCOMING " FEEDSTOCK"
Feedstock is basically anything that goes into the composting process. For us it’s fruit, orchard and land clearings, wood, yard debris plus food waste from industrial groups like Oregon Cherry Growers, and Turtle Island Foods. The incoming feedstock is stored on our compost pad, which is designed to collect any and all rainwater that comes into contact with feedstock material.
We grind all incoming woody material into 3″ pieces. This allows the material to breakdown more easily and let air pass through the piles, so they can breathe (a.k.a aerobic conditions).
03: CREATE RECIPE AND BLEND
Composting occurs due to microbes eating organic material and thereby breaking it down into soil. These microbes thrive in an ideal environment of 55% moisture, good airflow, and a 30:1 Carbon to Nitrogen ratio (for Carbon to Nitrogen think brown (wood, leaves, etc…) to green (food, grass, etc…). Knowing the Carbon to Nitrogen ratios of our incoming feedstock we blend them to create the ideal microbial environment. We mix the material into large trapezoidal piles called windrows.
04: MONITORING, AERATION, AND MOISTURE
We constantly monitor the windrows for the ideal conditions (temperature, moisture, oxygen, porosity). Our unique in-floor aeration system adjust airflow in order to maintain ideal temperatures within the piles. When these conditions exist, microbes flourish and heat the piles up to 140-170 degrees F. This is important, because the high temperature kills off weed seeds and other potential pathogens (like fertilizer put into grass clippings). According to National Organic Standards and DEQ we maintain a minimum of 131 degrees F for 3 consecutive days. We add moisture through our compost turners in order to maintain an optimal 55% moisture throughout the process.
Once the windrows have been through the previous stage, they have passed the “pathogen reduction phase.” The microbes are still alive, kicking, and breaking down material, so it’s not ready for your garden yet. Initially, we lay compost over our aeration floor, which introduces oxygen to the piles via temperature feedback. After an aeration phase, compost is moved off-pad to a curing pad. Compost at this stage can cure from one month to two years. In many cases it’s like wine, the older the better (but it also depends on the use, sometimes immature compost is preferable too). This phase is important for soil maturity, stability, water retention, respiration and nutrient content.
At this point the soil has cured and is sufficiently mature. We run the material through a screener to create a finished compost worthy of planting by the handful. Screening separates larger pieces from the fine soil and can remove any contaminants (i.e. plastic) not picked out during the composting process.
Compost is then blended as an ingredient in our planting mixes or sold directly in bulk, bags and totes.