By Shantel Wyke
“To me, sustainability is really trying to take care of Mother Nature so my kids and my grandkids can live a good, quality life.”
– Pete Guerrero
Can you imagine a world in which there was no waste? Better yet, imagine waste being used to benefit businesses and society as a whole. Duncan Family Farms, the largest composting farm in Maricopa County, has put sustainability into practice by creating its own green waste program. Featured over 55 acres, long rows of dried trees and trimmings await their transformation into compost. The idea of recycling is similar to composting in the fact that waste is converted into reusable products, lengthening the lifespan of materials made from natural resources. Located between 187th and 195th avenues on McDowell Road in Buckeye, Duncan Family Farms has been composting for nearly 16 years, but this zero-waste initiative was something they aspired to put into effect.
Simply stated by Technical Services Manager Pete Guerrero, the underlying goal of the program is “to divert as much material as we can and recycle it to be useful again.” Green waste, such as trees, bushes, and manure, is collected from local businesses and consumers and is converted into a helpful product that could be mixed with compost piles for better soil and, thus, healthier crops.
Having discussed the program for a couple of years, owner Arnott Duncan and Guerrero agreed that composting helped divert some green waste from landfills, but copious amounts of bigger materials like tree branches were still being thrown away. As they received more demand from customers to divert raw materials from landfills, they decided to invest in high-quality infrastructure that included a mobile office, a large electronic scale, and a tub grinder.
With this technology implemented, anyone can drive up onto the scale, dump their green waste, and pay per ton. If received materials are less than a ton, a flat fee of $15 is required rather than the full rate of $24 per ton. Once enough green waste has been accumulated – normally on a quarterly basis – Duncan Farms rents out a tub grinder to pulverize trees and bushes into a crushed heap. It is then transferred to their compost yard a mile away and blended with manure for nearly six months. Despite the usefulness of this heavy machinery, it is not without cost – the average price to use a tub grinder could range from $8,000 to $10,000 for just a few days. The funds used to pay for this come from local customers – currently, waste removal service Dumpstr Xpress, landscape company ValleyCrest, and the cities of Avondale and Goodyear – who pay the farm to receive their green waste. However, anyone can contribute and is welcomed to do so. Instead of paying the average fee of $33.05 to discard each ton of waste at a landfill, customers found it more cost-effective to give their green waste to Duncan Farms for $24 per ton, so that the farm could use it to enhance their soil. Other funds collected pay for the electricity needed to operate the scale in office, the front loader, water for fire suppression, and the employees of the facility.
The green waste program has benefitted Duncan Family Farms by not only providing them with more raw material but by helping them develop a great partnership with the community. Although it has only been up and running for several weeks, Guerrero anticipates the program taking off as the message spreads: “Encourage people to have more sustainable practices, help the community, and take care of what you have to work with now.”
Arnott and Kathleen Duncan, along with their team of collaborators, have taken the initiative to be good stewards of the land and helpers in the community. Certified organic by Quality Assurance International, Duncan Family Farms grows the spring mix, baby spinach, herb mix, braising mix, and mini head lettuces that are bought at retail stores. Duncan Farms also supports Arizona Food Banks with a million pounds of produce each season.
To find out more about Duncan Family Farms’ sustainable methods or their products, visit duncanfamilyfarms.com
Photo courtesy of Duncan Family Farms