Idaho producer Dave Rallison began selling compost at his farm following requests from members of his community. As demand grew, Rallison realized his side business provided an opportunity for him to meet new people and educate them about the dairy industry, including his commitment to environmental stewardship.

Q). How did you get started in the composting business?
We’re a first-generation dairy farm and we don’t have a large land base. Our compost idea started 10 years ago as an experiment to move my nutrient stream responsibly and to meet government regulations while creating a product that’s like soil.

People would drive by and say, “Can I buy some of that?” and we said, “Yeah, I guess you can.” So we started selling it at the farm, and before long, we had people calling, wanting big loads. We now offer home delivery, and the business has grown every year.

Q). What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced from selling compost?
I didn’t anticipate that we would build such a large clientele. This has created an opportunity to talk with people about the dairy industry. It also has allowed me to export compost outside of agriculture and into a whole new consumer marketplace. It’s interesting to talk with people about the dairy industry and how we’re responsibly dealing with the waste stream.

Q). How are you changing perceptions about the industry?
This has evolved into an opportunity to establish a very good reputation in the community. It’s hard to get this sort of one-on-one interaction with the public. A lot of times, we only hear from people when they have a complaint about us. A lot of people appreciate that our dairy is here to provide compost and that we’re doing it responsibly. It’s a positive perception that there is a dairy farmer in the community, instead of the feeling we sometimes had that they wanted us gone.

Q). What advice do you have for producers about becoming more involved in community relations?
Anytime you can find something that’s positive and allows interaction between agriculture and the public, run with it. It’s a great opportunity when people are right there at the farm and we have a chance to talk back and forth. A lot of people come to the farm and we fill up their truck with compost. They tell me that I have a nice dairy and they’re glad I’m here in the community. We don’t hear that a lot in agriculture.