The Secrets of Industrial Composting: Texas' Biggest Composter Reveals All (Video)


Image credit: Science Friday

Only a Texan would describe compost as "steak and potatoes for plants".

San Antonio's Malcolm Beck has been composting for over 50 years—back when, he says, hardly anyone had even heard of compost. He has since grown his business to become the largest composter in Texas. NPR's Science Friday recently paid him a visit, and he revealed many of the secrets of his trade—including what his most prized compost consists of... and what it really consists of. (Nothing is ever quite what it seems.)

We have, of course, seen footage of industrial-scale composting before, but what makes this video so great is the passion—and experience—of Mr Beck, who founded his business, Garden Ville, way back in 1957.

From telling us that bat guano is his most prized source of compost, to revealing that this very same bat guano is really beetle guano (beetles break down the bat poop before it is collected), Beck has plenty of factoids for the compost geeks out there. He also shows us the crucial test that this professional uses to tell when compost is ready—and it's the very same low-tech approach used by urban humanure enthusiasts in Oakland—just take a big sniff.

TreeHugger readers are, most likely, compost enthusiasts already, so I am not sure how many new converts this video will win over here. But it is interesting to note just how novel the presenters of Science Friday seem to find the whole business—dwelling for an awfully long time on the ickiness factor of manure as they introduce the video. If early signs that peak fertilizer may make manure a valuable commodity prove to be correct, the days of compost pioneers as light-hearted novelty stories tacked on the end of a show may soon come to an end. Either way, thank goodness for gurus like Malcolm Beck who remind us that one person's (or beetle's) waste is another persons treasure.

More on Large-Scale Composting
Peak Fertilizer to Make Manure a Valuable Commodity
a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/10/behind-the-scenes-industrial-composting.php">Behind-the-Scenes Footage of Industrial-Scale Composting (Video)
Mandatory Composting Law a Success in San Francisco

Tags: Agriculture | Composting | Farming | Texas | United States

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