Marshall to sell Herd Dirt Compost Tea at the Wild Ramp

Marshall University’s Herd Dirt Compost Tea will make its market debut Sunday, Aug. 7, at the Wild Ramp on W. 14th St in Huntington, kicking off the National Farmers Market Week celebration at the market.

But don’t put the kettle on. This liquid compost is not for human consumption. It’s used for gardening, and will be much tastier and more beneficial for your plants.

Herd Dirt Compost Tea is made with worm castings and water. The compost that is fed to the worms is made on Marshall’s campus from food waste and other organics, including waste that was diverted from local landfills. The tea will be sold in two sizes, 32-ounce jars for $15 and 16-ounce jars for $9. The profits will be used to fund programming at the university.

The compost facility was developed by and is operated by the Marshall Sustainability Department.

“The facility is a true startup that allows the university to move toward a more regenerative and sustainable framework by following the three P’s of the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit,” said Amy Parsons-White, sustainability manager at Marshall.

Compost is organic matter that has been broken down through natural microbes to become a natural fertilizer, and Marshall will make three types: regular compost made in a digester; vermicompost, which is made by using earthworms to break down the organics; and compost tea, which is the liquid compost made with worm castings. Castings are submerged in dechlorinated water, allowing the microbes and nutrients in the castings to leach into the water. The beneficial microbes are fed so that they can multiply, leaving the tea super concentrated with all the beneficial elements of regular compost. It is sold in mason jars and is to be diluted and used to water plants once per month.

At Marshall’s compost facility, “all organics — i.e., food waste, paper, cardboard, etc. — are composted instead of being sent to the landfill,” Parsons-White said. “This saves the university money in waste haul fees that would typically be paid. By composting instead of sending the waste to the landfill, it also reduces the amount of methane producing organics in the landfill and saves landfill space.”

The compost facility also functions as an academic laboratory for Marshall students who are studying agriculture, ecology and soil science while providing job training and certification to students and the public through the U.S. Composting Council, she said.

“Marshall Sustainability Department started this program because composting is one of the truly sustainable forms of waste management,” Parsons-White said. “By turning our waste into a valuable product, we have saved money on waste haul, made a profit in sales, and have provided soil amendments to our campus and the public to help rebuild the depleted soils in our area. Not only that, but as a university, we are able to use the facility to educate our students and the public on the importance of healthy soils and the direct correlation between soil health and human health.”

She says she hopes the compost facility is an inspiration to other universities and municipalities to compost their waste, build healthy soils and provide employment for West Virginians.

“We would like to educate the public on compost and its benefits to the community,” Parsons-White said. “We are happy to provide compost to the community, as well as local workshops and workforce development through certificate programs in composting. We look forward to growing the facility to the point that we can accept organics from the community to reduce the overall carbon footprint of Huntington while ensuring the health of our soil.”

Marshall’s Sustainability Department plans to release compost and worm castings at a later date.

To learn more about Marshall’s sustainability efforts, visit www.marshall.edu/sustainability.

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Photo: The large commercial digester, part of Marshall’s composting facility, arrived at the University Heights location Jan. 12, 2021.