Turn Waste into Gold by Selling Compost

Selling compost is one of those unexpected benefits of raising livestock. It helps to imagine I’m walking through liquid gold when the muck of winter starts to melt. If you happen to have any to spare–we never do–it’s a great way to add an extra cash flow from something you might otherwise spend a lot of time trying to manage and move out of the way.

There’s a high demand for all kinds of compost: leaves, grass clippings, animal manure, etc. If you can combine these into a finished compost, you can command a higher price.

Selling Compost: The Type Matters

If you walk through the compost section of your local garden center, you’ll see a wide variety of types.  Each type of compost brings a different variety of nutrients to the soil, so gardeners in the know will choose the type they need for their specific soil.  Some of the more common compost types include steer manure, chicken droppings, mushroom compost, organic compost (in a dozen different varieties) and earthworm castings.  Locally, rabbit, goat and sheep manures are popular.  Rabbit is especially nice since it can be directly applied with no composting.

Because of the specific nature of these types of compost, even if you have the components of many of them, you might find a better market by keeping and composting them separately.  Have chickens?  Make a compost pile right outside their coop for just chicken droppings.

Selling Compost
Initial investment: <$100, basically zero since you’re using waste
Turnaround time: 1-6 months
Acreage required: <1 acre
Daily time required: <1 hour
Profit potential: $-$$$

Make another pile for cleaning out the bedding waste from your sheep and goats.  The same goes for every other type you can create; keep it separate and market it that way.

Selling Compost: Finished or Not?

Depending on what you have for your compost material, you can sell it freshly collected or aged for a specific amount of time.  Rabbit manure can be collected and sold immediately because it needs no time to break down.  If you keep caged rabbits, this can be a simple project to collect and bag it as you clean the cages.  You can create a funnel right into a bucket so collection is as simple as dumping a bucket into a bag and passing it off to your buyer.

For richer composts like from steer or chicken manure, aging is important.  The University of Nevada recommends aging chicken manure for 5-6 weeks to allow it to cool and help kill dangerous pathogens.

This article from extension.org talks about how long manures can take to break down depending on the other ingredients in the compost.

Most end users don’t have the facilities or inclination to finish composting these manures that take longer, so they should be in their finished, ready to use condition before you begin selling compost from them.

Things that can be applied over the top as a mulch, such as leaf litter and old straw or hay can be sold as-is without composting.  Goat, sheep and rabbit manure is included in this category, although fresh goat and sheep manure needs to be applied at least 120 days before the harvesting of edible plants so make sure your buyers know this to be safe.

How to Sell Compost

If you are selling finished compost, the easiest method is to simply invite buyers to come your place with their own containers that you can fill.  You might charge by the pound or by volume, whichever is easiest to accommodate.  For example, if you have a 5-gallon bucket, you can charge, say, $3 per bucket and then keep track of how many buckets you fill and dump into their waiting containers.  If you have a tractor (or a couple of shovels and willing workers), you can also charge by the pickup load or yard.

If you have inexpensive–free is better–disposable containers, such as empty feed sacks, you can fill those and sell by the bag.  This gives the added benefit of portability.  You can bring bags to your farmer’s market or offer to meet buyers when you come into town next.  A couple of bags can be part of a self-serve roadside stand as well.

Lighter compost materials, such as leaves, can be bagged in trash bags for convenient selling and storage.

Selling Specialty Compost

Marketing is the key to making good profits with compost.  In addition to selling your regular finished composts and raw materials, consider repackaging and specializing.  Take a look at this Compost Starter, for example.  It’s not a whole lot more than some fresh manure, yet what a price!

Earthworm castings are another great one.  If you’re already raising the worms, this is a fantastic cash crop that I’ll delve more deeply into in another article.

If your farm does things differently, like using zero chemicals on plants or animals, you can market that as a special feature as well.  People are increasingly concerned about what goes into their food, so the ability to sell 100% clean compost is a great marketing point.

Lastly, consider the worms you generate by composting.  Red wigglers sell for a lot of money too, bringing $20 for 500 of them at Uncle Jim’s.

Going Big with Selling Compost

If you’ve got the knack for finishing compost and the space to increase your production, why not be the source?  Compost farms can package and sell wholesale straight to the garden centers.  Take a look at Martin’s Farm for inspiration.

For an often disregarded and unpleasant byproduct of raising animals, selling compost sure has the potential to be a big money maker.

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