Between the Rows: Martin’s compost farm

  • Adam Martin, who bought Martin’s Farm from his father, stands in front of the screener at his compost operation in Greenfield. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Adam Martin holds a handful of finished compost on a wet day. For the Recorder/Pat LeuchtmaN

  • Windrow of steaming compost as it heats up. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

For The Recorder
Published: 4/1/2016 3:21:04 PM

On October 1, 2014, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection made a requirement that all businesses or institutions that created more than one ton of organic waste a week find a source to accept and recycle that waste. This rule affected schools, colleges, hospitals, prisons, restaurants and more. Although compost farms already existed, the rule created a need for even more places that would accept and use these organics. Massachusetts has been at the forefront of this environmental policy for years.

Robert Martin was ahead of the curve. In 1981, he bought 90 acres of farmland from the Meyer family and raised beef, pigs and vegetables. He sold his products locally and in Boston. Like all such farms, he generated wastes and green debris. He was aware of the stresses and needs of the environment, and thought his waste could be turned into a benefit, so he began making compost. In 1987, the Mass DEP permitted him as an on-farm composting operation. It was the first one in the state.

I met with Adam Martin, who in 2014 bought the Greenfield farm from his father, who retired with Adam’s mother to Kentucky.

Adam worked on the farm while growing up, but his father hadn’t wanted his son to go into farming. He wanted his son to have an easier life and a more dependable job. The plan was for Adam to attend a diesel school in Wyoming for a year, which he did, but he continued working on the farm after finishing the program.

It wasn’t until Adam went to Africa for two weeks in 2006 with a church youth group that his eyes were opened to the work that was to be done in the world to help others. He looked at the world differently and he looked at the farm differently. In 2008 he led another church group to India and his determination to do something meaningful increased. Upon his return, Adam told his father he had no desire to leave the farm. He loved the farm and he saw how the farm could provide benefits to the community and the environment while it gave him and the staff a reasonable livelihood.

Today, Martin’s Compost Farm removes tons of organic matter from the waste stream. In the United States, food waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions. Locally, our garbage is taken and burned, emitting carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is causing climate disruption.

The farm now handles up to 15 tons of organic waste a week. Martin hauls much of this himself, collecting dumpsters from various sites. The Bridge of Flowers participates in a compost collective in Shelburne Falls organized by Franklin County Solid Waste Management. Bridge staff and volunteers throw weeds and spent plants into a dumpster that also holds waste from the different town restaurants. The dumpster is emptied every week or two depending on the season.

In addition to food waste, Martin’s Farm compost includes newspaper and cardboard, manure and leaves from the town. Martin spoke enthusiastically and energetically about his goal “to generate the best compost. Customers use it to amend their soil and their success is my success.”

I never dreamed of all the work it takes to make compost commercially. Martin’s farm begins with not accepting any material that has used herbicides. The compost is certified organic which makes his compost acceptable by organic farms. The process on the farm begins with hand sorting, pulling out large pieces of trash. Then large machinery is called into action.

First, there is the machine that turns the windrows of waste. There are usually 12 or 13 windrows in various states of decomposition at any one time. The windrows are carefully monitored for temperatures, oxygen and moisture, maintaining a temperature no higher than 133 degrees, just hot enough to kill weeds and pathogens.

When the compost is ready, it goes into the enormous screener with a fine mesh that screens out wood chips and other non-compostable materials. The wood ultimately makes its way into a wood chip mulch pile. “It is so important to me to have as pure a product as possible,” Martin said.

Finally, there is a super vacuum that removes any further non-compostables. The finished compost is tested by the University of Massachusetts three times a year so Martin can be certain that he is maintaining his own standards of quality.

Gardeners and landscapers need more than compost and Martin’s Compost Farm also offers a 50-50 compost and loam mix, compo-mulch and wood chip mulches.

I will always use compost to enrich my soil and improve its structure. I will always make my own compost because it is the small way I can keep organic waste out of the waste stream. But there are times when a garden needs more than what my little compost bin can supply. I am thrilled that Martin’s Farm and other compost farms exist locally, taking compostable materials and turning them into a benefit instead of an environmental problem.

For full information about Martin’s Compost Farm, visit the website:

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980. She now lives in Greenfield. Readers can leave comments at her website:


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