Waste Farmers Harvests Sustainable Agriculture
Growing Healthy Soil At The Microbe Brewery
Last Updated: 579 days ago
Waste Farmers had only been in business for about a year when they were hired by the little urban village of Glendale to take over the city's trash contract and divert a large portion of the waste from landfills to composting. Today they have evolved into innovators respected by leaders in the global community for developing simple solutions to the complex problems of modern agriculture and food security. FounderJohn-Paul Maxfield wants Waste Farmers to play a major role in shifting practices in agriculture away from the long accepted trend of reliance on synthetic fertilizers. "Our approach involves the decentralization of agriculture." He explains. "Rather than mine, process and transport these ingredients, we are harvesting them from the waste of our local communities and creating products that can further push food security while reducing environmental impacts." Enriching soil at the Microbe Brewery Waste Farmers continues to harvest the organic material from the trash of local businesses, schools and restaurants . They source out the initial composting and take that material to their Microbe Brewery, where the ingredients for what Maxfield calls 'living soil' are cultivated. "We create living soil products an environment where beneficial microorganisms and soil microbes can thrive to promote a complete Soil Food Web to ensure healthy soils, healthy plants, and healthy communities."
Maxfield continues, "This is why we call our production facility the Microbe Brewery and it is why our marketing and branding will position us as a craft manufacturer of quality organic fertilizer products in the same manner craft microbrews of the beer industry differentiate their products over conventional larger brewers." Global communities connect with BoldLeaders This year Waste Farmers has been one of eight host sites in the Denver metro area for the Bold Food Fellows visiting from Africa. The Bold Food Fellowship is an exchange program between American and African professionals working in various aspects of food security.
The program was developed by international community organizers, BoldLeaders, with the support of several other organizations and funding from the U.S. State Department. BoldLeaders' Project Manager and Facilitator Ashara Ekundayo placed Michael Akhwale with Waste Farmers and it was a perfect match. He works for the Ministry of Agriculture at the Kenyan Agriculture Research Institute (KARI) in the Western Provence of Kakamega.
Mr. Akhwale has a Masters Degree in Agronomy and Soil Science from the University of Kentucky and he has done research in sustainable agriculture. Waste Farmers Director of Operations Aron Rosenthal felt that they hit the jackpot with the opportunity to work Michael Akhwale. "We had this amazing soil scientist for three weeks and he helped us to put together comprehensive growth trials and helped us to refine our distinct soil recipes." On the last day of Mr. Akhwale's visit with Waste Farmers he gave the other Bold Food Fellows a tour of the Microbe Brewery and spoke to them about what he had learned while working with John-Paul and Aron. "One of the biggest problems that contributes to food insecurity, not only in Kenya, but in Africa as a whole, is poor soil; soil that is devoid of nutrients." He goes on. "When I came to Waste Farmers I heard their story and thought, I am in the right place." Mr. Akhwale went on to tell of the organic sources of nutrients that Waste Farmers were using in place of the chemicals found in inorganic fertilizers commonly used in Kenya by the farmers who could afford them, and he concluded. "I now know that when I go home I know how we can assist each other as Africans to improve productivity by improving our soils." The organic materials used by Waste Farmers in their Microbe Brewery that this soil scientist saw as the answer to major problems affecting food security in Africa, were also said to be readily available with little expense to farmers there. Changing the mind-set To think that this little operation, working with the bio-waste of an urban center like Denver, could discover breakthroughs in creating healthy organic soil; breakthroughs that could contribute to constructive shifts in agricultural practices as far away geographically and culturally as Kenya? It really is mind-boggling. John-Paul Maxfield says that boggling the mind-set of people who aren't farmers and aren't in the habit of contemplating food sources and waste streams is a big part of the mission at Waste Farmers. "There is a lot of skepticism in our society related to how waste is an ecological term and getting back to how in nature waste doesn't exist, rather one system's waste becomes the nourishment for the other."Maxfield explains, "It's an education process in our culture; beginning with convincing people to keep organic material out of the landfills and then showing them what it can be turned into and how it can be used not only on farms, but in urban households." Waste Farmers was founded with a great deal of vision and very little money, but make no mistake about these gentlemen in the Carhartt overalls. The future of Waste Farmers is a well-crafted plan, backed up with solid numbers. The agricultural practices they have set out to change are not just bad news for the earth and for our health inorganic fertilizers are becoming bad business. Studies show that production of inorganic materials used in fertilizers, like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, has dropped in the US.
To fill the gap we now import a great deal, adding the expense and environmental impact of fossil fuels used in transport to the already unsustainable equation of the profit margins driving big industrial agricultural business. Putting a farm in every household The growth of Waste Farmers' own profit margin has certainly not been left to the providence of good karma. Their business plan establishes a well researched market position with the seemingly modest strategy of bringing their flagship 'food for soil' products the premium potting mix and planting mix to market, while scaling the Microbe Brewery production capacity to establish a position as a 'craft' manufacturer of organic fertilizer products.
John-Paul Maxfield has actually said that he wants Waste Farmers to put a farm in every household. Sound familiar? Another audacious entrepreneur, Steve Jobs, made the same proclamation about computers in our households during the early development of Apple. In just three short years Waste Farmers has grown their partnerships from the little urban village of Glendale to the Global communities working towards food security and sustainable agriculture. They know what they are doing and why. Aron Rosenthal says that the African Opportunity Trade Agreement Forum , involving some 30 sub-Saharan African countries and the United States, are trying to decide where to have their conference.
The Bureau of African Affairs from the State Department will be coming to Denver to visit three organizations: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory , the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Waste Farmers. "This sort of interest has developed around Waste Farmers in just a couple of years and not because our production is so fantastically impressive; it's just because if we don't handle waste in a different way and we don't put all of this organic waste back in to the soil to feed the next generation of plants to feed us, we're all in huge, huge trouble."