Greg Antonucci of Ashland works for Phoenix Organics, which is partnering with Rogue Disposal to provide organic compost. - Bob Pennell

Rogue Disposal teams up with Phoenix Organics

In times past, Phoenix Organics relied on a Portland firm for the certified compost it sold to the region's organic farmers.

The source just got a lot closer to home when Rogue Disposal & Recycling signed an exclusive deal to provide all of its certified compost to the Phoenix building materials and farm supplies store on Highway 99.

The product will be sold under the label "Vital Earth's Organic Compost" by Phoenix Organics, which has been on the green cuttingb edge since it opened in 2002.

"It is the ideal sales channel for our compost," said Stephen Gambee, chief executive of Rogue Disposal & Recycling. "This is a high-quality organic compost that we are very proud of."

This compost, produced by Rogue Disposal's Oakleaf Enterprises unit, is the first Jackson County compost certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute and has the U.S. Compost Council's Seal of Testing Assurance as well. Only two other Oregon compost products are OMRI certified.

The Rogue Valley compost reaches internal temperatures of between 140 and 150 degrees for a minimum of 15 days, as it is churned to ensure even exposure. This process kills pathogens and weed seeds during a 12- to 18-month curing period.

Rogue Disposal & Recycling produces 7,200 tons (roughly 2,400 cubic yards) of compost annually at its Dry Creek landfill site. Before certification, much of the compost was sold at the White City transfer station. With certification pending, marketing manager Garry Penning began visiting vineyards and small farms with limited success.

Driving by Phoenix Organics one day last summer, Penning got things rolling with a sample. The store's in-house agronomist, Ajit Singh, determined the compost to be animal waste-free and made up of 39 percent humus.

"It's not an easy product to market," Penning said. "It's a value type thing where other products are less expensive; but we're reaching a select group that needs certification."

Certified organic farmers are required to document the source for all materials used in growing crops. Phoenix Organics has a clientele of 40 organic growers, who will consume most of the compost. Everything Oakleaf Enterprises produces with certification will go to Phoenix Organics.

"It took a half a year or more to demonstrate our process and achieve certification," Penning said. "We made some operational changes and work hard to keep plastics out."

Much of the organic waste picked up by Rogue Disposal comes in plastic bags.

"We bought equipment for screening and spread everything out twice to check for contaminants," Penning said.

Before certification, Rogue Disposal sold compost at its White City transfer station for between $14 and $16 per cubic yard. Penning said the compost weighs more when it rains and grows lighter when it dries out in summer.

Certified compost will top out at $29.99 per yard for orders of less than 15 cubic yards. The price drops to $25.99 for 15 or more cubic yards. If a customer picks up 40 or more yards at the store, the price is $23.99 per yard.

Phoenix Organics Manager Abraham Harris said bulk farmers with organic certification get lower prices

Although Harris declined to disclose future plans, Phoenix Organics will easily meet demand in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties as well as Northern California, he said. "We'll be able to sell to outside areas, too."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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