Composting turning into lucrative business

Louise Oleson Journal Managing Editor
Partners Judy and Thomas Duenow and Shelley Mathison-Holmes are enthusiastic about their bison waste composting business Buffalo Earth.

A new business that takes mountains of bison waste and turns it into premium, nutrient rich fertilizer for landscape, turf, garden and houseplant applications is rising from the northern prairies, just down the road from Devils Lake near the neighboring community of Leeds.

The partners

Partners Thomas and Judy Duenow, from Elk River, Minn. and Shelley Mathison-Holmes from Winston-Salem, N.C., are in the process of seeing their dreams come true, thanks to today’s emphasis on “living green” and recycling.

Partnering with the owners and operators of the neighboring bison feedlot their business, named Buffalo Earth, takes the mounds of bison manure generated by the feed-lot and through a careful, scientific process turns it into rich, black fertilizer.

The Duenows and Mathison-Holmes spend a great deal of time in North Dakota overseeing their business and working hands-on getting everything ready for distribution. Two of the three have direct connections with North Dakota. Judy was raised in Leeds on the farm next door to the bison feed-lot, in fact she and her family still own the home place. She is a Moorhead Concordia graduate.

Mathison-Holmes is originally from Fargo, a Shanley graduate who attended and graduated from UND in Grand Forks.

The feed-lot is another of the partners in the composting business. It was specifically designed by the experts from NDSU to allow for the maximum space available

Thomas explained that they use 200-foot long windrows of bison manure that are 12 feet wide and 8 feet high on the compost pad.  The material is heated to 160˚ three times.

Each time it reaches the desired temperature the material is turned. During that process much of the impurities are destroyed. Then it rests or cures for four weeks. The whole process takes approximately two to three months.

Then the material is screened or sifted to further remove debris and impurities.

When it is ready, the rich, black, “soil” remains to be bagged, sold and delivered.

“It’s the ultimate in recycling,” Mathison-Holmes explained.

“No chemicals, and the bison are raised with no hormones or antibiotics,” she added. She opens a zip-lock baggie of the finished product. There is no smell but a faint “earthy” smell, like rich black dirt would have.

They take a million pounds of animal waste, an operational liability, and turn it into an ecological asset. Their process reduces the actual waste of the feed-lot by 60 to 70 percent.

They will sell it “From truckload to teabag.”

A different kind of tea party

A teabag of Bison Compost No. 2 Brew bears these directions: Place No. 2 Brew bag in watering can or container filled with one gallon of water. Steep up to 24 hours until liquid is tinted light brown. [Like you would if you were making suntea.]

But don’t drink it!

Water your houseplants or garden with the “tea” and remember to recycle and re-compost the tea bag.

In June of this year it was announced that the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission (APUC) had awarded funding requests for nine projects totaling over $461,000. The largest award, for $135,000, went to Bison Compost, LLC of Leeds, to further develop a bison manure compost business.

Thursday the Duenows and Mathison-Holmes learned that their products had been approved for the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase. Soon everyone will learn about this innovative business.

Mission Statement

The mission of Bison Compost is to produce and supply an economical and environmentally friendly natural soil amendment to reduce the need for and eventually replace the use of inorganic fertilizers for agriculture, gardening, and landscaping applications.

Additional quote:                                                                                                    “The soil benefits greatly from the addition of compost. Fertility, water-holding capacity, bulk density and biological properties are improved. Odors are reduced and fly eggs [destroyed] due to the high temperatures occurring during microbial decomposition. Few weed seeds remain viable in properly composted manure, which can reduce the amount of herbicide or tillage needed for weed control. Composting animal manure is an effective way to kill pathogens.”

NDSU Extension Service

from website