- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

LEEDS, N.D. (AP) - Composting is a form of waste recycling. According to the partners in a Leeds operation that composts bison waste, it also is an example of value-added agriculture.

The owners of Bison Compost have been turning bison manure into soil-enhancing compost since early last year, the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1e0DzW6 ) reported. With the award of a recent $135,100 grant from the state Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, their product line is about to expand.

Bison Compost has produced compost in bulk for large users. Bulk product currently is sold through a Devils Lake nursery and directly to users, including a worm farm, an oilfield reclamation company and an organic crop farmer.

As part of a new marketing plan, the company looks to develop a bagging machine that will be capable of packaging compost in multiple weights, based on bag sizes that research shows consumers want.

North Dakota State Fair visitors will get a look the bison product at the company’s display during Pride of Dakota Day July 20. One of the bagging options to be shown is a “compost tea” known as No. 2 Brew.

Shelley Holmes, a Fargo native now of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, developed the compost tea idea with a partner during participation in a North Dakota Women’s Startup Weekend about a year and half ago. Their idea finished second in the event, at which women pitched their entrepreneurial ideas.

A company called Dakota Compost formed to briefly manufacture compost tea. Holmes eventually bought out her partner. When Tom and Judy Duenow with Bison Compost invited her to tour their operation and meet their partners with North Prairie Bison Ranch at Leeds, she took up their offer. Now she is another partner, working with Bison Compost to market the teabag concept. The single-use teabags are tiny compost bags that are individually steeped 24 to 36 hours in a gardener’s watering can. The resulting amber-colored water is nutrient rich and perfect for plants.

“It’s not only easy to use, but the teabags themselves can be re-composted,” Holmes said. “We are hoping to target urban and suburban planter gardeners with potted plants.

“Now going forward we are so excited to be able to offer the consumer from truckload to teabag. Whatever size, we can customize both for people,” she added. “So it’s a really exciting future for us.”

The grant from APUC will be used to create a cohesive brand family of products for Bison Compost. It enables the company to hire a marketing executive who will help develop a marketing plan over the next six to eight months. The company also will be able to hire an executive to help develop a business plan, said Tom Duenow. The Duenows live in Elk River, Minnesota. Judy is a native of Leeds.

Bison manure compost is used as a soil enhancer because it retains three times its weight in moisture and is a good source of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micro-organisms that bring soil back to life, Duenow said. Bison at North Prairie Bison Ranch are grown without use of antibiotics or hormones, he added.

Composting has become attractive as the popularity of going green has increased. There’s also something romantic about bison, with their connection to the Old West, Duenow said.

At Bison Compost, the process begins with excavating manure from pens and spreading it in long windrows about 12 feet wide and eight feet high. Compost equipment periodically turns the manure, adding oxygen and allowing it to heat.

“It’s a natural pasteurization process. It kills weed seeds and pathogens,” Duenow said. It takes about two months to complete the composting process. The product then is allowed to cure for a few days before packaging occurs.

Bison Compost is a member of Pride of Dakota, the U.S. Composting Council, N.D. Farm to Market Growers Association and the Minnesota Composting Council.

The U.S. Composing Council has a Seal of Testing Approval program that Bison Compost is participating in. This program is a nationwide standardized test that assures compost quality.

Bison Compost also plans to apply for organic certification through the Organic Materials Review Institute.

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Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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