If last year’s theme was start up mode, this year’s theme was growth. This time last year we had two unpaid founders, an intern and one part time employee. This year we have six paid employees (including us, finally!!!). This time last year we were composting 2,500 tons per year; this year 10,000 tons per year. While doubling staff and quadrupling volume is exciting, it has also been chaotic and with bumps and bruises: our pond problem persists, we need more water than we ever thought, and plastic contamination is the plague of our existence. That said, we are still fulfilling our missions of diverting materials from the landfill and returning organic matter to our orchards, farms and gardens. This past year’s growth has presented challenges, but ultimately the continuation of our goals.
Only two years in to the business, we now find ourselves at an interesting point- the original goal was to create a facility that could compost 10,000 tons per year, which is exactly where we are now. So we are faced with the question of what to do next. The classic American model would be to continue to grow at all costs. Or do we stick with our original plan and build another “small scale” facility? Or do we feel satisfied with what we have and move on to something different, like biodiesel, organic energy production, or some other diverse but related business?
As we hope will become a tradition, below is a synopsis of the past year in our own take on triple-bottom-line accounting.
- Created 5.5 jobs in Wasco County
- Diverted 5,900 tons of material from the landfill
- Returned 3,000 yards of compost to orchards, farms, and gardens
- Commercial food scraps composting is beyond the pilot and now an official program in Hood River and The Dalles. The program diverted 288,000 pounds of food from local restaurants.
- Became and OMRI Listed facility (Organic certified) and STA Certified.
- Reduced C02 emissions by 1,013 tons (EPA Waste Reduction Model), that’s the equivalent of 115,000 gallons of gasoline.
- Updated to aeration technology, grew site by two acres, built sales hut and second water tank, started worm composting, bought three trucks, inherited a biodiesel brewer, & planted 65 new trees.
None of this would have been possible without the tremendous outpouring of support from friends, government, vendors, customers and partners. Thank you so much! We feel fortunate to still be in business and are happy to juke the stats on start-up failure rates (at least this far). And yes, we’re still having fun.