• Agromin wins key organic approval - Wednesday, June 11, 2008 at
  • Certification to help farm sales
    By Jim McLain Wednesday, June 11, 2008
    Ventura County Star

    Agromin Inc., a Camarillo company that uses green waste to manufacture some 250 soil and mulch products, has won a key designation that is expected to boost its sales to the organic farming industry.

    Company officials were notified last month that Agromin products meet the requirements of the nonprofit Organic Materials Review Institute, an executive said.
    The designation means that Agromin's composted products may be used in certified organic production or food processing according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program.

    "This has tremendous potential for us because now this allows us to sell our composted products into the organics agricultural marketplace," said Bill Camarillo, Agromin's chief financial officer. "We had not been able to do that before."

    Agromin is one of only five companies in the country that produce composted products from plants that are approved by the Eugene, Ore.-based organization.

    Camarillo said Agromin will include the OMRI approval in its advertising and packaging labels. The designation, he said, assures growers that Agromin products contain no chemicals or human or animal waste, and it certifies that the company uses composting procedures that kill any pathogens and tests its products regularly.

    The company recycles more than 250,000 tons of green waste annually from businesses and residences in 19 cities in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties, including all 10 in Ventura County. It uses the grass, leaves, branches and other plant material to make a variety of topsoils, soil amendments and mulches for commercial farming operations and backyard gardeners.

    Launched in 1972 as a wholly owned subsidiary of California Wood Recycling Corp. in Ventura, Agromin employs 70 people in six processing facilities in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Company sales last year totaled about $12 million, Camarillo said.
    The OMRI designation should boost sales, he added, because increasing numbers of growers are switching to organic crop production. Organic farmers use fertilizers and pesticides made from plants and animals instead of manufactured chemicals.

    Agromin has strategic partnerships with the Limoneira Co., Newhall Land and Farming Co. and other agricultural companies to turn their green waste into a variety of mulches and soil products for their crops. Because mulches retain moisture, their use enables growers to reduce irrigation, Camarillo said.

    The company also is working to earn green waste recycling agreements with additional cities, he added. He noted that state law requires cities to recycle half their total waste by 2012.

    Camarillo said Agromin is working with the state on a study that the company hopes will show that organic green-waste recycling reduces the release of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

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  • CSUCI Students Clear Non-Native Plants From Ormond - Monday, June 9, 2008 at

  • June 4, 2008--Nineteen college students from Cal State University Channel Islands spent two weekends clearing non-native grasses and plants from Ormond Beach in Oxnard. The students, mostly business majors, volunteered as part of their Resource Management class. Their efforts resulted in three, eight-foot by six-foot piles of non-native materials that will be recycled into mulch by Agromin, the green materials recycler for cities in Ventura County.

    "I'm in awe at what they accomplished in such a short period," says Nancy Pederson, who heads the Ormond Pointe Native Plant Nursery and Restoration Project.

    During their work weekends, college students planted native coreopsis and lupine grown by kids at Briggs Elementary School in Santa Paula and by members of the Ventura County Master Gardeners. The plants were grown from seeds in soil donated by Agromin.

    The college students also used black plastic from Agromin to solarize some of the non-native plants that had intruded in the area. " The plastic is placed over the non-native vegetation for several months, baking the soil and keeps the sunlight out," explains Pederson. "This process makes it easier to remove dense, non-native vegetation. We'll then plant native milkweed grown at Briggs Elementary School."

    As the college students began clearing a hill on the site, they found that it wasn't a hill at all. "Underneath the dirt was a mound of concrete that someone had discarded," says Pederson. "Construction workers used the area as a dump. The students removed the non-native plants and grasses but left a bit of the concrete visible as a reminder of what was done. The hill will eventually be planted in coreopsis and lupine."

    The 10-year restoration project of Ormond Beach started in 2006 and covers approximately 11 acres of degraded wetlands currently owned by the Oxnard Waste Water Department. Volunteers have succeeded in restoring about 1 1/2 acres. "The hard work by the college students put us ahead schedule," says Pederson. "The kids were there waiting for me and were ready to work. They could have written a paper to satisfy their class assignment, but chose to work on this project instead."

    Pederson gives Agromin credit for helping the project succeed. "If we didn't have Agromin's generous help, we couldn't have done what we've done," says Pederson. "We couldn't afford to buy potting soil or the solar plastic. The Briggs Elementary School didn't have the money to buy soil for planting and many Master Gardeners are on fixed incomes so they couldn't afford the soil and seeds for the project. Agromin donated it all."

    "Anytime we see an opportunity to recycle green materials that we can eventually return to the earth, we're happy to help," says Bill Camarillo, Agromin CFO. "The Ormond Pointe restoration project is a great way for residents of all ages to contribute to restoring the beauty of our area. It's also an opportunity to teach kids, from elementary school to college age, about the importance of green recycling and becoming good stewards of the land."
  • Last Chance to Plant Trees & Lawns Before Summer - at
  • May 27, 2008--June is the last ideal time to plant citrus trees from containers and lay new lawns before summer heat makes successful planting difficult, say experts at Agromin.

    Transplant Citrus Trees and Sod Lawns: Hot weather puts stress on plants and lawns. Cooler temperatures afford the best conditions for transplanting. If unable to transplant trees or lay sod in June, wait until fall when the weather cools.

    Plant Foliage Requiring Little Water: With water rates on the rise, consider planting trees and shrubs that require little water once established. Drought tolerant trees include many varieties of oak and pine as well as the Australian willow, olive and California pepper tree. Flowering plants include Desert Willow, Scarlet Larkspur, Beach Suncups, Red Buckwheat and Golden and Woolly Yarrow. Shrubs include California Fuchsia, Hollyleaf Cherry, Bigberry Manzanita, California Buckwheat, Spice Bush and Evergreen Currant.

    Herbs for Drought Tolerant Gardens: Many herbs require little water. Rosemary, English thyme, oregano and sage all do well with minimal watering. Remember, as with trees and shrubs, newly planted herbs require regular watering until the roots are established.

    Don't Forget The Mighty Oak: Besides being drought tolerant, oaks are deciduous to the area and make an impressive statement in any yard. The most imposing is the Valley oak, which can reach 70 feet high. Other varieties include Coast Live oak, which can also grow as high as 70 feet, Scrub oak, with its dense growth can grow as high as 15 feet and Interior Live oak, which can reach between 30 to 75 feet in height.

    Plant Summer Flowers: For a splash of color in summer, add summer annuals to your garden such as zinnias, cosmos and marigolds--either from seed or from transplants.

    Still Time to Plant Vegetables: Tomato, squash, cantaloupe, celery, corn, cucumbers, lima beans, okra, pepper, spinach and squash can all be planted in June in time for a full summer harvest.

    Control Weeds Before They Flower: The best time to control weeds is early, before they flower and establish their root system. Pull weeds and then cover the area with mulch to keep weeds from returning.
  • Agromin Compost Receives OMRI Approval - at
  • May 21, 2008--Agromin has learned its compost complies with the strict requirements of the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). Agromin is one of only five companies in the country that produces plant-only compost products approved by the non-profit organization. OMRI-listed products may be used in certified organic production or food processing according to the USDA National Organic Program.

    "OMRI approves the products used to grow or produce organic foods," explains Bill Camarillo, Agromin CFO. "With the OMRI stamp of approval, farmers who grow organic products can use our 'Compost 100' in their fields as part of their effort to comply with USDA organic standards. As more and more farmers go organic, the OMRI certification opens up new customer channels for us."

    Agromin, the green materials recycler for 19 cities in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties, produces soil amendments, bark and mulches from the more than 250,000 tons of green materials it collects each year from city residents and businesses.

    The company has partnered with agricultural operations including Limoneira Company and Newhall Land to distribute its compost on farm acreage. "Farm water usage is down across the board because compost holds in moisture," says Camarillo. "The need for pesticides and herbicides is also reduced as the compost keeps away bugs and reduces weed growth. Trees and plants are healthier and the quality of the produce and vegetables have improved."

    Agromin soil products are also certified by the U.S. Composting Council (USCC). The certification means Agromin has met the USCC standards for compost content and its soil products are clean and safe. Agromin is also a member of the California Climate Action Registry. By joining the registry, Agromin agrees to voluntarily track and report its greenhouse gas emissions.

    For information about OMRI, go to www.omri.org.
  • Las Colinas School Visits Agromin - at

  • March 25, 2008--Students from the special education class at Camarillo's Las Colinas Middle School recently visited Agromin's green materials recycling facility in Oxnard to learn about the recycling process. The field trip for students in sixth through eighth grade was also designed to help them understand how to create their own composting pile at school.

    "The kids knew about the importance of recycling glass, plastics and paper, but didn't realize that green materials needs to be recycled too," says Laura Wittington, the special education teacher. "They thought the green materials collected at curbside each week was just dumped into the landfill."

    The kids were in for some more surprises. "They were shocked to see the amount of garbage that had to be picked out of the green materials because people aren't careful where they put their trash," says Wittington.

    "Any garbage, including paper, glass and plastics, has to be removed from the leaves, grass clippings and wood we collect before the materials can be chopped and composted into mulch," says Dave Green, director of sales at Agromin, who conducted the tour. "The students got a firsthand look at what happens when people are careless."

    The giant rows of compost at Agromin were a big hit. "The students were impressed that the bacteria than can hurt plants is 'cooked' out during the composting process," says Wittington. "They also liked the coffee grounds mulch pile. They never thought about where these grounds go after people make coffee."

    The mulch created from the students' compost pile at Las Colinas will be used in the school's community garden. "When we got back to school after our visit to Agromin, the kids wanted to get going on the compost pile right away," says Wittington. "They told the groundskeeper to make sure to put grass clippings in the pile, and to post a sign so students wouldn't toss leftover food in the pile. They came away from the field trip with a greater understanding of the importance of green recycling. They learned how 'good dirt' is made and to only put plant materials in the green recycling bin."

    "We always enjoy teaching kids about green recycling," says Green. "The Las Colinas students are well on their way to creating a successful compost pile and garden."
  • Green Waste Diversion Saves Landfill Space - American Recycler - at

  • by Irwin Rapoport

    February 05, 2008--Each year, hundreds of tons of green waste from households, businesses, institutions and farms are deposited into landfills.

    For more than 10 years, Camarillo, California-based Agromin has been converting green waste (lawn clippings, leaves and wood, including dimensional lumber) into compost, soil and mulch.
    "We processed over 250,000 tons in 2007 and this year we surpassed over three million tons in total," says Dave Green, Agromin's director of sales and marketing.

    Green waste, when dumped in a landfill, eventually breaks down into water and various materials and is lost for re-use.

    "By recycling green waste, not only are we extending the life of landfills, but you are reducing the amount of green house gases that are emitted from landfills," says Green.

    The second largest green waste recycler in California and eighth in the nation, Agromin operates in 19 cities in southern and central California--from San Diego County to Monterey County.
    Local trash haulers bring green waste directly to Agromin's five recycling sites for processing--paying a lower tip fee than if the waste were deposited at a land fill. The material is cleaned, chopped and laid out in huge composting rows.

    "It's turned and watered continually for about 45 days," says Green.

    Wood from construction sites is also chopped and mulched. When the material is removed from the composting beds, it is screened once more to create various particle sizes and then sold to landscapers, farmers, government entities and to consumers in bulk or in bags.

    Agromin produces custom soil blends, compost and soil amendments (60 percent of its production), with the remainder being mulches. The firm also produces wood chips for power plants that generate "green" electricity.

    "Instead of ending up in a landfill, the green waste is recycled into nutrient-rich soil, thus closing the recycling loop," says Green. "Our soil is certified by the U.S. Composting Council (USCC)."
    Green notes that many municipalities and counties use Agromin's compost and mulches. "Without these and other outlets, we would just become a storage facility--basically a landfill," he says. "Without municipalities re-using or buying back material that their residents recycle, it would be much harder to close the recycling loop.

    "A municipality can become self-sufficient in mulch and compost," he adds. "Some have neighborhood clean up programs and Earth Day and Arbor Day events where our compost is available. Others offer our bag products through various retailers in their communities. We also donate product to schools for school gardens. A big part of our school program is to educate students on green waste recycling and saving our landfills."

    Green says that students are great ambassadors for recycling. "They are our best green waste and recycling police because they really look at what goes into recycling containers and make sure that the waste is sorted properly," he says. "The material has to be clean because northing works with contaminated waste."

    Agromin is also conducting experiments with food scraps to generate products. It composts food from packing warehouses including excess produce, cores and trimmings. "Our testing facility is composting pre-consumer food waste and we are having good results," says Green.
    Agromin soil is used by agricultural companies to replenish their fields. It has partnered with Newhall Land and Farm in Los Angeles County and Limoneira Company in Ventura County.
    "These ag companies have seen tremendous gains, not only in erosion control, but in water conservation," says Green. "They are finding that they use 30 percent less water for citrus crops by using mulches and composts from recycled green materials."

    Soil depletion, particularly the loss of valuable topsoil, takes years to regenerate naturally.
    "We can do what mother nature does in only 45 to 60 days," says Green, who believes the United States Department of Agriculture could do more to spur the development of compost and soil production companies to reduce the effects of erosion on farms. "There are not a lot of incentives for the agricultural community to do anything more than the existing fertilization programs."

    Agromin is also selling products to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley--California's key agricultural production center. The area is greatly affected by losses to soil erosion via irrigation, wind and rain.
    "Anytime we can cover fields in mulch or composted soil, it slows down the natural process of erosion," says Green. "Along with the use of pesticides and herbicides, erosion continues to be an area of concern.

    "The problem right now is that everyone is trying to educate the agricultural community," he adds, "but it really comes down to cost--what can a farmer earn for a crop? It's economics and sometimes it's not as economic in the short run to use compost and mulch where fertilizers get a quicker result."

    Green is finding that landscape architects are looking to "go green" when using compost and soil products for their residential, commercial or institutional projects.

    "In California alone there is about three to four million tons of green waste produced annually," he says. “Having state and municipal legislation that requires green materials be recycled is essential for green recycling success. California's AB 939 mandates a 50 percent diversion rate from landfills. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is considering increasing the diversion rate from landfills to as high as 75 percent. If that comes to pass, California will have to get everything out of the landfill that can be recycled."

    Another way to ensure green waste collection and processing success, says Green, is for cities and counties to mandate that private solid waste contractors partner with green recyclers.
    "Agromin partners with private waste haulers that collect the green material and drop it off at our facilities," he says. "Since the haulers pay a lower 'tip fee' than at the landfill by recycling the green waste, they come out ahead."

    Recreating the California model in other parts of the United States is doable as long as viable soil amendments or compost could be created from the available green materials, notes Green "The composting process has to be adjusted so the soil has the right nutrient values and be safe from pathogens," he says. "Northern climate zones might be limited to seasonal operations because of weather. We can operate 24/7 year-round in California."

    Copyright American Recycler. All rights reserved.
  • Agromin Selects Wood & Bender As Corporate Counsel - at
  • Agromin, the second largest green waste recycler in California and a premium soil manufacturer, has selected the Ventura law firm of Wood & Bender as its corporate legal counsel.

    Agromin, the green waste recycler for 19 southern and central California cities is projecting strong company growth as cities and businesses plan for new, stricter conservation laws, says Agromin's CFO Bill Camarillo. "We needed a law firm that could help us in our growth process," Camarillo says. "Wood & Bender has the experience and legal ability, the staffing and infrastructure to support our growth. The firm will be a huge asset to us."

    "Agromin is a cutting edge company that helps our community and our environment," says David Bender, Wood & Bender partner. "Agromin enables all of us to live better lives because of what it does. We're very excited to represent Agromin so it can reach its growth goals."

    Wood & Bender maintains a national practice representing Fortune 100 companies as well as companies experiencing rapid growth.

    Agromin, based in Camarillo, collects about 20,000 tons a month of yard trimmings from homes and businesses in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties. It cleans and processes the green waste so it becomes mulch and other soil amendments, and then redistributes it back to the soil on farms, landscapes and in consumer products.
  • Agromin Gives Kids A Lesson In Green Recycling - at

  • Wednesday, January 09, 2008

    About 70 sixth graders from Mesa Union School in Somis recently received a up-close environmental lesson on how green waste is recycled in Ventura County. The students, from two science classes at the school, visited the Agromin green waste recycling facility in Oxnard as part of their school's year-long "Garbage to Gardens" project.

    The students watched as green waste (leaves, tree limbs, wood, grass clippings) that had been collected throughout Ventura County was dropped off at the site. From there, Agromin employees pick out paper, plastics, metals and other debris. "The kids were surprised about how much trash was thrown away with the green waste," says Michele Waggoner, a teacher and Mesa Union School who is coordinating the "Garbage to Gardens" project. "The students thought it was wrong that people didn't pay attention to what they are putting in their green recycling bins."

    Waggoner said her students were also surprised about how many steps it takes to make green waste into finished compost. After the green waste is cleaned of unwanted materials, it is chopped and then laid out into large rows where its temperature increases to about 140 degrees. The level of heat kills most weeds and disease-causing organisms. The piles are turned and watered regularly. Eventually, the green waste turns into dark, rich compost and then made into various soil products.

    "The ultimate goal of the project is to teach students how to reduce their environmental impact," says Waggoner. Agromin will provide bags of finished compost to add to school gardens and soil amendments when students plant flower bulbs and vegetable seeds. Students will also make their own compost and send samples to Agromin to test for nitrogen and carbon levels.

    The field trip and student studies have already made an impact. "Students try to recycle everything now," says Waggoner. "Students have been collecting dead leaves around campus and the custodians are saving grass clippings. Starbucks is donating used coffee grounds for our composting pile. The project makes them feel connected to the school environment and that they are making a difference."

    The "Garbage to Gardens" project is funded by a grant from Lowe's Toolbox for Education.