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10/01/2007 02:00:00 AM

Apple grower-packer jumps into green-waste recycling


By David Mitchell
The Packer

Stemilt Growers Inc. of Wenatchee, Wash., is dedicating 23 acres of land to decayed and discarded fruit in order to feed 1,000 acres of cherry and apple trees.
"We're recycling 100 percent of our green waste," marketing director Roger Pepperl says

Three years ago Stemilt started an initiative to turn fruit that couldn't be sold as fresh or processed into something positive. Leaves and twigs from waste bins and discarded lime from the company's controlled-atmosphere rooms also were thrown into the mix to create compost in a large-scale operation in Wenatchee.

"It's a great way to get rid of waste," Pepperl says. "It's providing nutrient-rich and organic-matter-rich compost for farming."

Pepperl says the system has allowed one of Stemilt's company-owned orchards to use the compost instead of synthetic fertilizers or commercial compost. He said Stemilt's compost holds moisture better and provides more nutrients than synthetic fertilizer. He said the result is healthier trees that are more pest-resistant.

Pepperl says the compost operation recycles matter from all six of Stemilt's Washington plants, but it can produce only enough compost for about 8 percent of the company's total acreage.

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