BROOKLIN — A Brooksville native has started a composting business and intends to compost commercially on two acres of a 51-acre parcel off the Hales Woods Road.
Kate Tompkins of Sargentville is applying for a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit. Once that is in hand, she will appear before the Brooklin Planning Board.
“Chickadee Compost will compost food scraps from the Blue Hill Peninsula’s households, businesses and schools, along with seafood waste from local seafood processors,” Tompkins said.
“Wood shavings, sawdust, wood chips and yard waste will also be used in our compost ‘recipe’ along with horse bedding, and possibly some blueberry waste,” she said. “Finished compost will be sold on our peninsula and beyond, with a focus on keeping our local food and yard waste, seafood waste and wood waste resources close to home, to enrich our soils with a local resource, and to save our towns tax dollars by diverting food and seafood waste from the traditional solid waste stream.”
“We also hope to make our composting site a demonstration and educational resource for our community to learn about the commercial composting process,” said Tompkins.
Tompkins said two acres of the land would be used for composting with another section used as a small access road into the site. The remaining acreage — between 47 and 49 acres — would remain forested. Selective cutting would occur according to an existing forest management plan, she said.
Tompkins and her husband and two sons moved back to the peninsula in 2018. The family had been living in Seattle, where Tompkins worked as director of development for SeaShare, which sends millions of pounds of seafood to food banks across the country each year.
“A significant portion of the seafood donated is bycatch from the Alaska pollock fishery, which is the biggest fishery by pound in the U.S.,” she said. “This work got me thinking about the national food system, the waste we have in our existing system, and what I could potentially do about it.”
“I am starting this business as a service to our community,” said Tompkins, who was a 1997 graduate of George Stevens Academy. “I am aiming to help our community to take direct, urgent and tangible action against climate change now because I and so many others are sick of waiting for leadership on climate action at the federal and state levels. I also aim to be a good neighbor to direct abutters and in the larger community.”
Tompkins said she had approached the board of the Surry-Blue Hill Transfer Station about leasing a portion of the transfer station site for her composting business.
However, the terms of the transfer station’s contract with the now non-functioning Coastal Resources of Maine plant in Hampden prohibit such an arrangement, according to Blue Hill Selectman Vaugh Leach.
So, to answer the question top of mind for gardeners, Tompkins aims to have a first small batch of finished compost ready for sale in the spring of 2021.
“It will take six to nine months to get a finished product,” she said.
“Our goal is to produce high quality, 100 percent locally sourced compost that helps build soil health and retain moisture while reducing the financial and environmental cost of hauling our community’s compostable waste to landfills and the PERC waste-to-energy plant,” said Tompkins. “Diverting compostable waste from the solid waste stream will reduce methane emissions and directly contribute to the fight against climate change.”
Some residents might wonder if a commercial composting operation would draw more animals than are already in the area.
“I’ll be fencing the whole area,” Tompkins said.
Any new load that comes in would be immediately put on a bed of wood shavings and then covered with more wood shavings or finished compost.
“That massively cuts down on the bear and bird issue,” Tompkins said.
Last fall, Tompkins attended and obtained certification from the Maine Composting School.
The Department of Environmental Protection recently awarded Tompkins a $40,000 Waste Diversion Grant.
Tompkins hasn’t started composting yet, but she could.
She explained that Maine allows residents to compost up to 15 cubic yards without a commercial license in a 30-day period. Once she obtains a commercial license from the DEP, she’ll be able to compost up to 100 cubic yards.