Organic Compost

vegetab;esQuestion: I have an organic vegetable garden. Recently I saw an advertisement for organic compost. Isn’t all compost organic? Am I missing something? G.W.

Answer: Compost is made from organic materials, but not all compost is “organic”.  OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) tests and maintains an official organic products list including compost and vermicompost. The criteria for being certified includes material and processing requirements, and excludes compost feedstocks (plant and/or animal materials used to make the compost) sprayed with pesticides. If the feedstock source cannot be traced, there is a possibility it could contain pesticides or other contaminants.  USDA National Organic Program does not have standards for compost and vermicompost.

Most home gardeners and small producers don’t want or need to unfailingly adhere to strict organic standards.  If you want to follow strict organic guidelines in your garden, the only way to have “organic” compost is to make it yourself or purchase compost labeled as OMRI approved.  Organic certifiers recognize the OMRI approval as acceptable for use for organic production. The state of Washington also approves products for organic production and their approval is also recognized nationally by organic certifiers. Although not an endorsement, Purple Cow Organics and Intelligrowth Industries are two Wisconsin compost producers who make certified organic compost and there may be others.

If you want to learn more about composting and vermicomposting, you may be interested in Master Composter Certification. The goal of the Master Composter program is to empower local composters to organize and teach home composting workshops and offer compost demonstrations in their communities. Home composting enables a people to recycle leaves, grass clippings, garden debris and food waste into a valuable compost product that improves soil health when applied to gardens and lawns.

I will be teaching a Master Composter Workshop on Saturday, April 12, 2014, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Kenosha County Center, 19600 75th Street, Bristol, WI.  The $30 course fee covers the cost of educational materials. As a Master Composter you will work with UW-Extension horticulture educators and master gardener volunteers in Kenosha County and southeast Wisconsin to teach home composting to adults and youth with workshops, presentations or demonstration sites.

More information is available online at or call Kenosha County UW-Extension at 262-857-1945. Registrations may be made online, by mail, or in person. Registrations are strongly encouraged by April 4, 2014.