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U Doo Compost Program Gets New Equipment

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
June 10, 2009

On the back acreage at Kingman Farm there is a field lined with what look like gopher burrows that stand about three feet high and 200 yards long. Within minutes, when the wind changes direction, it’s clear that’s not what they are.

This is where U DOO compost is made, at UNH’s Compost Technology Center. The popular soil enhancer is sold to local farmers and gardeners ($35/yard or $5 a bag) and is used in the Organic Gardening Club’s vegetable gardens.

The recent purchase of a new tractor and a windrow turner will ensure the university will keep churning out the compost, making good use of the tons of food waste collected from dining halls and downtown businesses each week.

“It’s amazing that we’re turning something that was considered waste into something so valuable,” said Rick MacDonald, assistant director of UNH Dining.

Added UNH farm manager John McLean, “We’re tickled with the way people like this compost. They’re really happy with the product.”

Purchase of the new equipment resulted from a collaboration with Dining Services, the Office of Sustainability, the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Parents Association. The turner was $34,000 while the tractor cost about $45,000. The old equipment was about 30 years old and bought used.

“We had so many organizations that helped with this,” McLean said. “There is a lot of support for the project.”

The alternative to replacing the farm equipment, MacDonald says, was for the program to go away. But with sustainability at the core of UNH’s mission, the investment made much more sense.

Several years ago, Dining Services invested in three food pulpers for each university dining hall. The machines are a sort of garbage disposal with knives attached that chop up the food, which is then sucked up to an auger and comes out 90 percent dehydrated.

It is this dehydrated pulp that is collected and added to the windrows at Kingman Farm where it will take two to three months, if turned consistently, to become compost. Turning takes place once a week, depending on the row’s temperature, McLean says. If it cools down, it’s turned more often.

The windrow turner has a long cylinder covered with paddles that lift and turn the compost, adding oxygen, which feeds the bacteria, quickening the composting process. The turning paddles churn up the decomposing piles of food pulp and manure.

U DOO is sold at Kingman Farm, at Durham Marketplace and by calling 868-2345.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to turn each row once a week,” McLean said. “A lot depends on the temperature of each row. If it cools off, we’ll have to turn it more.”





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