Jared Burch, Burch Farms

Jared Burch, 4th generation farmer

Burch Farms in Sampson County has been using McGill AG compost for many years.  I met fourth-generation grower, Jared Burch, in one of their fields late last summer as he prepared to plow sweet potatoes.

A graduate of North Carolina State University, 25-year-old Jared farms about 6,000 acres with his father, uncles and cousins. He is well aware of the need to keep the soil enriched to produce crops and spoke of the importance of returning organic matter back into the sandy soil where they farm.

The Burch family incorporates about 15 cubic yards of compost per acre prior to planting. Burch Farms is known for their sweet potatoes, peppers, greens and other produce. Over the years, Ted Burch, Jared’s uncle, has seen money savings from purchasing less fertilizer and better moisture-holding capacity in irrigated fields during the hot summer months.

CONTRIBUTOR:  Ruth King, McGill-Delway compost sales


Delegates to the USCC awards luncheon included, from left: front – Lynn Lucas, Barbara McGill; back – Pete Bashaw, Jim McGill, Noel Lyons, Judy McConnell, Steve Cockman, Bob Broom.

Last week, the U.S. Composting Council (USCC) named McGill Environmental Systems the 2011 Composter of the Year.  Recognizing McGill’s 20-year achievements in the areas of compost manufacturing, marketing and education, the award was presented at the trade association’s annual conference in Austin, TX.

McGill’s delegation included co-founders Jim McGill and Noel Lyons, Pete Bashaw, Steve Cockman, Judy McConnell, Bob Broom and Lynn Lucas.

Accompanying Jim, who flew in from his home base in Ireland to attend the conference, was his wife, Barbara.

Headed for the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS) this week?  Stop by Booth #1920 and say hello to McGill sales and marketing manager, Gary Gittere, and regional sales rep, Joe Belmonte.  While you’re there,  roll up your sleeves and dig your hands into a sample of our premium SoilBuilder compost.   The green industry tradeshow runs January 11-13 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Congratulations to McGill’s Delway manufacturing team.  The facility, McGill’s first, recently recycled its 2 millionth ton of biodegradable by-products and residuals, a fitting tribute to its 20 years of compost production.  The Delway crew commemorated the occasion with a catered lunch, T-shirts and a celebratory banner.

As a company, McGill also celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.  Between our six facilities (3 in the U.S. and 3 in Ireland), we expect to hit a cumulative 4 million tons processed by the end of 2011.

A:  No.  Our compost meets EPA Exceptional Quality standards for these types of products.

I come by my passion for sustainability and composting honestly. Reduce, reuse, recycle was my mother’s subconscious mantra. Reduce was easy. We had no store-bought processed food. Everything we ate was cooked or made by my parents. I didn’t drink my first cola until I was in my 20s, my first beer well before that! Everything that entered our home was reused, every piece of string rolled up and put in a drawer. The grease-proof wrapping on butter was scraped and saved to line the pan when a fruit cake (I’m English, so I love fruit cake) was baked.

My dad grew much of what we ate. There was an annual ritual around growing runner-beans – like flat string beans only a delicious full flavor. In the autumn, a 6-inch deep, 35-feet long trench was dug. Into this we threw culled cabbage leaves, broad-bean and pea pods, the stalks from Brussels sprouts, the peelings from potatoes, turnips and swede (rutabaga), even some waste paper. That material composted over the winter. In the early spring, the trench was filled in and the beans, saved from last year’s crop, planted. The 8-ft. bamboo canes to stake the row were reused each year and carefully stored over the winter after rubbing with linseed oil to keep out moisture.

We moved closer to town when I was about 11. One of the first things my dad built was an updated version of his compost piles. This time, he used cinder blocks with holes through them. Each pile was a bit over a cubic meter in volume. Although this garden was smaller, we had room, of course, for the runner beans.

In my life I’ve been involved in many things. In the Royal Navy, I was a submarine navigator, then an “expert” in passive anti-submarine warfare. But eventually, with parents like mine, how could I end up doing anything other than being part of a team that makes compost?

Composting is, you know, the most under-rated environmental process. The world is losing topsoil at an alarming rate. Once there were 12 inches of topsoil on the Great Plains. Today, only 4 inches remain — probably less than that with this spring’s floods washing topsoil down the rivers into the Gulf. That can be replaced most efficiently with compost. But it will require a sustained effort. So, if you have a waste, such as DAF sludge, biosolids, food waste or yard waste, I urge you to consider this:  You actually control a resource that, when composted, will help solve the topsoil problem. This, in turn, will help places like Texas minimize the effect of this year’s drought, and it will help grow “good food” so we can feed the world’s 7 billion people.

McGill Environmental Systems is a commercial organics recycling and compost manufacturing company.  Also known as McGill Compost or simply McGill, it incorporated in 1991 in North Carolina.

Who is McGill?

We are one of the oldest and largest advanced-technology composting companies in the world.
  • We own and operate industrial composting facilities in the North Carolina, Virginia, and Ireland.
  • We employ about 100 people worldwide.
  • We use an advanced composting technology to convert biodegradable materials into high-value compost products for commercial and professional markets.
  • We offer related services like sludge dewatering and transportation.
  • We process indoors and use computers to provide the maximum level of process control.  This results in a fast, efficient process and high-quality compost products.
  • We design, build and operate composting facilities for ourselves and for others.
  • We market a line of branded compost products to landscape suppliers, golf courses, athletic fields, construction contractors, stormwater managers and farmers.
Lynn Lucas

Lynn Lucas

Q:  Project developer?  What’s that?

A: I suppose an analogy to a composer is close to the mark.  The spark of an idea becomes a cacophony of sounds swimming around in my head.  One by one, those noises and tones are isolated.  The instrument or voice making each sound is identified.  Then an organizational process commences, placing each note in its proper sequence, with just the right emphasis, just the right instrument.  Only then is the composition put to paper.

But for that score  to finally take on life, it must be entrusted to others – conductors, musicians, vocalists, audio technicians – who turn ink and paper into music, each making his or her own unique contribution to the finished work.

Like the composer, a project developer imagines, organizes and structures, but is rarely hands-on beyond early start-up or testing phases.  That’s when the people who are going to manage on a day-to-day basis take over.

Q:  What do you actually do at McGill?

A: Over the years, I’ve done just about everything except drive a frontend loader.  But, officially, I work in Business Development, focusing on permitting new facilities, grant writing and marketing.  I have authored/co-authored most of our external print, our website, this blog, manuals, articles, presentations, continuing education courses for licensed professionals, etc.  This has also included some of the related design and production work.

About 80 percent of what I do involves making something out of nothing and demands some basic knowledge in multiple disciplines, so this is a position where one is required to know a little bit about a lot of things — which is the perfect job for someone with a short attention span, like me.  It also helps to possess the ability to juggle three oranges, a feather and a brick while simultaneously keeping a hula hoop spinning around one’s waist, bouncing a deflated soccer ball with the left foot and paddling upriver in a leaky canoe with the right.  Admittedly,  I sometimes drop the brick … which explains the condition of the soccer ball.

I’ve been with McGill for two decades.  The only other constant in my life with longer duration is my husband of 37 years.  I guess that speaks highly of the entertainment value of both.

Q:  What do you do in your spare time?

A: Spare time?  What’s that?