California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Organic Materials Management

On-Farm Composting

Green highlighted words indicate definitions and links to the glossary section.

Plant trimmings, straw, animal bedding, grape pomace, and vegetable culls make excellent feedstock for a compost pile. Some farmers also bring in material from off the farm, such as yard trimmings from landscapers. While many farmers use existing equipment, such as a front loader, to turn the compost pile, others invest in special equipment designed specifically for this purpose.

Do I Need a Permit?

While most on-farm composting operations do not need a permit, those that sell or give more than 1,000 cubic yards of material per year are required, at a minimum, to notify their local enforcement agency (LEA) of their operation. This table on "Regulatory Tiers for Composting Operations and Facilities" may help you determine if you need to contact your LEA. Information on regulations pertaining to composting is available here.

How to Compost on the Farm

For a simple guide on the basics of composting, check out CalRecycle's publication Composting: Nature's Way to Recycle.

The On-Farm Composting Handbook is an excellent resource that discusses a variety of methods of on-farm composting. The book also discusses the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio of common farm feedstock. This information will help you figure out the best mixture of ingredients to facilitate the composting process. Excerpts of the book are included in the above-referenced website.

The Field Guide to On-Farm Composting is an informative 118-page spiral-bound guide. The guide is designed as a companion book to the above On-Farm Composting Handbook for use in the field. It does not provide the in-depth information on a number of topics presented in the Handbook, especially relative to site selection, economics and marketing. These books are produced by and available from the Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service.

Resources

  • National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), formerly the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, provides technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, market gardeners, Extension agents, researchers, educators, farm organizations and others involved in agriculture through NCAT's website, publications and other media. NCAT's publications address current topics in sustainable agriculture.
  • Cornell Composting provides access to a variety of composting educational materials and programs developed at Cornell University.
  • Compost Calculator (Green Mountain Technologies Commercial Composting Solutions)
Last updated: May 18, 2017
Organic Materials Management http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/
Contacts: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/Contacts.htm