Animal composting at center of
By Scott Nicholson firstname.lastname@example.org
A Deep Gap man is trying to understand
why people are complaining about what he considers a natural
Jay Carter at his two-acre compost
site in Deep Gap. Photo by Scott Nicholson
Jay Carter, who has
operated a compost pile on Hardin Road since 1982, was
the subject of complaints during a recent county commissioners
Kenneth Lisk told
the commissioners a number of families on Hardin Road
wanted Carters operation shut down, saying it stank
and bred flies, as well as threatened runoff into a nearby
Carter operates the
site as an ongoing business and research experiment, saying
hes conducted similar experiments at four other
sites. While composting organic matter is a popular backyard
pursuit for a number of home gardeners, Carter expanded
his efforts from the usual dead-leaves-and-kitchen-scraps
pile. He began using one of the planets richest
sources of nitrogen, that of formerly living creatures.
I take anything
in the carbon chain and compost it, Carter said.
It makes the finest organic fertilizer.
Carter uses an aerobic-anaerobic
compost system, meaning bacteria that breaks down the
organic matter doesnt necessarily need oxygen the
way a typical compost pile does. Carter said his compost
has met federal standards by staying over 131 degrees
Fahrenheit for three days, and his compost passes pathogen
tests because the process takes about two years before
the final product is ready for gardens, yards, or landscaping.
What disturbs the
neighbors most is Carters use of animal carcasses
in the operation. By Carters reckoning, the four
compost piles on the site contain more than 1,000 dead
cows and about 30,000 chicken carcasses. He said hes
added 400 deer in the last two years, and stray bones
can be seen lying about the site.
His usual method of
operation is to dig a large pit in the middle of a pile,
then throw in the carcasses, which he gets from a number
Some people drop off
the animals, while he picks up others, then tosses them
in a 15-foot-deep pit. He then covers the carcasses with
a layer of mulch or sawdust and lets nature go to work.
He calls them reaction pits and likens the
organic process to a series of bioengines.
Carter caught composting
fever in Lumberton in 1970, when his father asked him
to start a pile in the backyard. I started out with
a sheet and a rake, he said. It took all year
to do what I can now do in no time.
Even in those early
days, Carter was experimenting with animal carcasses as
a source of organic matter. He got waste scraps from the
local Kentucky Fried Chicken and mixed them in with the
pile. When he moved to Deep Gap in 1976, he took his passion
with him, and though he admits to mistakes along the way,
he said hes learned enough to prove the waste stream
can be managed much more effectively without relying solely
Carter has patented
his process, trademarked under the name Bio-E. He sells
his products mostly to home gardeners, but also has a
few larger commercial clients. Considering the money and
time hes sunk into his dark pits, he said he has
a right to develop his product.
He built a four-foot-high
earthen berm to divert any leachate from a nearby creek,
and said state guidelines require him to have two backhoes,
one for adding the material and another for harvesting
the finished compost, so that natural pathogens like e.
coli and salmonella dont enter the end product.
position is that Carter is operating a compost operation
that should be regulated by the state Department of Environment
and Natural Resources. Carter said DENR wont give
him a permit because his operation is not 50 feet from
the adjoining property. He says the DENR permit is irrelevant
anyway because he started his operation long before DENRs
composting rules took effect in 1996. He added that most
of the people who are now complaining moved into the area
long after his operation started.
A commercial chicken
farm about 100 yards up the road closed 10 years ago,
and Carter said nobody complained about his compost until
some people on the gravel road wanted the state to pave
it. I dont understand it, he said of
the complaints. All Im trying to do is make
Indicating the piles
of compost, including two that are covered with mulch
or grass and are ready for use, he said, All this
was done by me. I didnt have the state telling me
what to do. Ive taken care of the leachate, dealt
with the road, and learned how to bury stuff. When you
have a patented process, the experiments never stop.
As for his closest
neighbor, Ruth Winebarger, she said shes never had
a problem with Carters operation. Though she lives
down the road away from her 27-acre property, she rents
a house a couple of hundred feet from Carters site.
Its not bothering me, she said. I
dont have any problem with it. I dont know
whats wrong with everybody anyhow.
Carter said his mission
is to restore the topsoil, which he said has been depleted
because animals are buried too deeply or thrown into landfills
and thus dont return organic matter to the soil.
He compares the clay-heavy soil across the road with the
rich, black and loose soil of his compost, saying hes
trying to reverse the depletion of the planets dirt.
Carter operates his
business as Rockwater Farms. His web site at Rockwaterfarms.com
contains a FAQ, scientific and chemical information about
his procedure, and other composting tips.
provides environmentally friendly solutions for processing
all types of carbon-based waste into compost, says
the sites introduction. The systems are scalable
from the needs of the small farmer to large municipal
systems. Employing a patented process, Rockwater Farms
provides complete turnkey solutions for construction,
operation, and maintenance of industrial, municipal, and
agricultural waste composting facilities.
He said trial and
error taught him valuable lessons and he didnt have
any large-scale models he could duplicate. Ive
had a lot of experiments get out of hand, but Ive
always managed to get them under control, he said.
In the last five days, he added 400 pounds of fish, 300
chickens and a cow to his newest reaction pit.
Carter admitted his
operation encourages flies in the summer, but said flies
are already a thing of life. They didnt
start complaining until they found out they could get
a state road, he said, adding landowners wanted
to develop their property while his own property rights
werent being respected.
Looking at the long
term, Carter isnt sure whether he will ever recoup
his investment of labor and equipment. There is
no retirement, he said. This is what I do
until I die. Ive got a fortune sunk in here. Id
like to see this system used for all waste streams. Its
efficient and it works.
He said hes
asked politicians, scientists and agricultural experts
to visit his site, saying only one county commissioner
visited. State agricultural officials told him his site
wouldnt work, so there was no need to visit it.
Hes also had no luck finding people interested in
capturing the methane the operation produces. Undaunted,
he said hes the type of person that doesnt
shy away from a confrontation.
this because Im supposed to, he said. Global
warming is here and Im trying to do what I can to
offset it. Think globally, act locally. Well,
Ive taken the bumper sticker to heart.