PA Ag Secretary Helps Break Ground for Unique Facility to Turn Manure into Money for Farming Community, Clean Local Waters

(Lancaster County, Local and regional leaders today broke ground on an innovative facility that may be the first-of-its-kind to turn both excess manure from local farms and waste from yards and kitchens into compost and prevent polluted runoff from reaching Lancaster County’s streams and rivers. By composting manure from local farms, food waste from local schools and restaurants, and leaves and yard waste from Manheim Township, the new facility—Oregon Dairy Organics—will turn trash into treasure for organic farmers, home gardeners, landscapers, and park and athletic field managers. Oregon Dairy Organics will be selling finished compost by this fall.

Most manure composting takes manure from the host farm only and is managed by the host farmer, which usually results in low quality final compost, with higher emissions of ammonia, and compost that is only suitable for on farm use. While many townships operate larger regional composting facilities for greenwaste, few of them accept manure because of the odor and transporting manure can be expensive beyond about 10-15 miles. These municipal facilities must add commercial nitrogen to make the composting work because greenwaste contains very little nitrogen, which is a required ingredient to make compost.

“The Oregon Dairy Organics composting facility will play an important role in helping Pennsylvania meet the co-equal goals of clean water and viable farms,” said Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding. “Knowing the important role Pennsylvania plays in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, we must find innovative ways to protect our natural resources and increase the profitability of our farms. The Oregon Dairy Organics team has created a model that will benefit the community, the farms and our waterways.”

“By working together and embracing a new approach to an old technology—composting—Oregon Dairy Organics has been able to develop a program that will benefit farmers, the community and water quality,” said Suzy Friedman, the project’s manager and deputy director of the Center for Conservation Incentives at Environmental Defense Fund. “Oregon Dairy Organics is an example of farmers stepping forward to improve water quality in local creeks, the Conestoga River, and all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.”

Oregon Dairy Organics brings together an innovative partnership to demonstrate how composting can play a bigger role in improving water quality in southeastern Pennsylvania and other areas of the Chesapeake Bay by giving farmers expanded options for nutrient management. The project combines the efficiencies and professional management of composting multiple waste streams at one site, with the need to avoid the size, traffic, and hauling expenses of a large-scale regional composting facility.

“This project is another example of the positive steps farmers can and are taking to clean up both Lancaster County streams and the Chesapeake Bay in an economically sustainable way,” said George Hurst, owner of Oregon Dairy in Lititz, Pennsylvania five miles north of Lancaster. “As a result of this project, manure, yard waste, and food waste will become an asset to agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay region.”

Oregon Dairy Organics has the diversity of partners and stakeholders needed to make it work: Oregon Dairy and the Hurst Family to provide a farm site for the project; a professional composting company, Terra-Gro Inc., will help manage the facility and market the finished compost; a local agricultural consulting company, TeamAg Inc., to coordinate farmer participation in the project; and a nonprofit conservation organization, Environmental Defense Fund, to coordinate the overall project and secure needed funding.

“This unique venture is truly visionary in terms of environmental sustainability and economic viability for farming in Lancaster County,” said Loren Martin, general manager of Terra-Gro Inc. “Oregon Dairy’s leadership in conservation reaches a new level with this project by helping turn what some view as waste into something we want and can use to grow beautiful and healthy flowers, grass, and vegetables.”

The project has been developed in close collaboration with Manheim Township, local farmers and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It is funded by the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Pennsylvania’s Rural Education Achievement Program (with corporate sponsorship from Trout Ebersole & Groff LLP, The Phillips Group, B R Kreider & Son Inc., and Worley & Obetz Inc.), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Terra-Gro.

“Creating high-quality compost from manure and other wastes will help the region meet looming local and Chesapeake Bay-related pollution reduction mandates,” said Harry Campbell, senior scientist at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “The compost improves the soil health without chemical fertilizers. Oregon Dairy is a shining example on how the farming community, businesses, and residents can support the local economy and the environment.”

Oregon Dairy, well known for its conservation efforts, is home to a 500-cow and 450-heifer dairy farm, grocery store, restaurant and lawn and garden center. The farm has been recognized numerous times for its efforts to protect water quality and other natural resources, including being awarded the prestigious Outstanding Cooperator Award by the Lancaster Conservation District in March of
For more information and to follow construction updates, visit

Want to keep up to date with all our latest news and information?
Subscribe to receive FREE TIPS, all new Radio/Podcast Episodes and Videos that will help you start Dropping your Energy Bill!
Enter your email below to join a world of new knowledge and savings!