Middletown Township Enters Pilot Program with Somerset County Farm to Test Viability of Leaf Compost as
Organic Soil Amendment
For Immediate Release
July 28, 2020
MIDDLETOWN, NJ —Middletown Township today announced a partnership with High Time Farm in Somerset County to conduct testing on the compost the Township creates through its leaf collection as a viable organic soil amendment. This is the first pilot program of its kind in the State of New Jersey and the results could be an important step towards moving away from harsh chemical fertilizers to grow plants.
This year-long pilot program is part of Middletown’s ongoing commitment to find ways to increase sustainability in an economical way. “Last year, Middletown was the first municipality in the state to invest in a Styrofoam Recycling Machine, and we look to build upon our environmental successes with this program,” said Mayor Tony Perry.
The results of this study will help the Township determine how residents’ leaves can be transformed into a regenerative soil amendment for our land across town. “This will enable us to potentially eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and it is more cost-effective,” explained Mayor Perry.
The partnership began when the NJ Composting Council (NJCC) introduced Middletown Sustainability Manager Amy Sarrinikolaou to a fellow member, Stacy Vogel of Homestead Slow Food in Pottersville, NJ, to discuss using the Township’s compost as a soil amendment for her farming soil rehabilitation needs.
“Middletown seemed like the perfect partner, because as a fully Certified Class C Recycling facility, the Township has a large enough leaf recycling operation to provide what I would need for my crop testing,” said Vogel. “They can also screen the compost, making it usable as an excellent and natural source of nutrition for crops, flowers and lawns.”
After initial quality testing, Vogel and Township officials were able to work out the parameters and goals of the program. Middletown will provide approximately 800 cubic yards of compost towards Vogel’s pilot program. In return Vogel, supported by the NJCC, will provide the advanced testing results, drone footage, and documentation throughout the trial. The goal of the testing is to demonstrate the viability of organic, all-natural compost as a replacement for synthetic fertilizer when growing crops.
Composting has been shown to have a myriad of benefits from soil porosity, nutrient uptake, pathogen destruction and disease suppression for crops. “If the testing concludes, as expected, that our compost does in fact improve soil quality as well as crop quality, it will have tremendous implications for the agriculture of New Jersey and beyond,” said Sarrinikolaou. “Rather than thinking of our leaves as waste, it can be repurposed to improve the growth rate and quality of crops, flower gardens and yards as well as eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers which are currently being used to provide the soil with nutrients.”
The project will begin next month and run the course of a year. There will be several testing sites on the farm as well as a control group to determine how the crops using compost as a soil amendment perform in comparison to those that do not. There will also be soil testing throughout the process to determine how the compost application improves the overall quality of the soil.
Beginning in August, the Township will be offering screened compost to residents at no cost that can be used as a natural way to repair and enhance their yards. Visit www.middletownnj.org for updates.