Seeking to expand operation, Greenfield farmer gets Board of Health thumbs-up

The Greenfield Recorder, July 23, 2017, by Joshua Solomon

GREENFIELD — With hopes of expanding the composting on his farm, Adam Martin sat before the Board of Health for nearly 45 minutes.

Martin was praised for what he has done to combat odor problems, while leading the way with his proactive measures.

“What Adam is doing is at the cutting edge of what’s happening in Massachusetts. That’s for sure,” Then-health director Nicole Zabko said. “I have boards of health from across the state that call me and discuss Adam’s farm.”

The Greenfield Board of Health director added, “He is a pioneer for this kind of thing in the state for sure.”

Martin wants to increase the amount of compost he can make but he needs approval through the state Department of Environmental Protection. It’s an effort that the health board endorsed.

Martin’s decision to apply for an increase came when he needed to renew his general permit for composting.

Currently, Martin is allowed to take in about 15 tons a day of Type-2 organics, primarily food waste, for compost. He said during the fall harvest and school year he was beginning to push that limit, so he wanted to expand the amount he was legally permitted to take in.

“I’m not looking for a big increase, I’m just looking for a little increase to stay in compliance,” Martin said, asking the Mass DEP for what the next step up would be.

He soon found out 30 tons a day was the next level up, which would effectively double the amount he can take in — although currently he has no plans to do that.

“It sets me up for growth,” Martin said to the board. “We want to encourage organic waste.”

Odor control

The process to get approval for expansion is somewhat tedious. Martin has been in talks with Mass DEP on how to go through this process, which includes taking the necessary precautions to limit odor. Zabko recalled 400 complaints about the smells coming from the Plain Road farm.

At the beginning of the year, Martin installed a new system to control odors. He also discussed using different approved products to soften the potential smells when he turns a new batch of compost.

“I’ve been very impressed over the years that the complaints have really diminished to the point that we really don’t get them,” Greenfield Board of Health Chairman Dr. William Doyle said. “You’ve done a wonderful job.”

Martin explained though that with recent changes to weather, it has been challenging to control the odors and successfully compost.

“With the weather, everything has gotten more extreme,” Martin said. “Nothing is normal anymore.”

He said he’s always up against the weather and spoke about the hundreds of dollars he has to spend to keep the odors down when there is a bad storm around the time he’s turning the compost.

“I haven’t sat back and said I’m doing what I can and the weather is going to get better,” Martin said. “I’m preparing for the extremes.”

The Board of Health gave Martin its endorsement in hopes it will give him a boost as he deals with the logistics of getting Mass DEP approval.