A Composting Hero
Bay Gardener helped found an industry on nature’s fertilizer
For every job, there’s an association. Every association has heroes lauded for having discovered how to do the job better. The Bay Gardener, Dr. Francis Gouin, has just been enrolled as a hero of the U.S. Composting Council.
This month, Gouin received Hi Kellogg Award in recognition of his outstanding service to the composting industry in research, teaching and promoting the use of compost by nursery and greenhouse growers and by home gardeners.
Gouin spent years earning his laurels. The Clean Water Act of 1970 got him on the job, studying compost made from the biosolid residue of water purification. From 1972 to 1981, he studied for the Biological Waste Management Laboratory — a joint project of USDA and EPA — how sludge could be used as compost in the production of forest seedlings, container culture of woody ornamentals and greenhouse crops such as poinsettia, chrysanthemums and bedding plants.
When President Ronald Reagan closed the Laboratory in 1982, many questions about compost remained unanswered. Gouin stayed on the case, composting yard debris, seafood waste and garbage under a $60,000 grant from Proctor and Gamble.
Foreseeing a future for commercial composting, Gouin and six other researchers organized the Solid Waste Composting Council. Its first national meeting in 1985 was attended by 35 composting entrepreneurs.
Over the following decades, a multi-million-dollar commercial industry evolved. The original Council’s descendant, the U.S. Composting Council, has 1,100 members. This year’s three-day conference attracted 98 exhibitors and 980 members to learn about products, marketing, standards, equipment and publicity.
That’s where Gouin was honored with an award named for composting pioneer and entrepreneur, Hi Kellogg. Kellogg was not a scientist, but through trial and error he developed such high-quality compost that it has been used on the turf of the football stadium in Pasadena, California, where the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl game is played.
“In 1972 there was no commercial composting,” said Gouin. “I find this hard to believe, that I had a part in establishing a new industry.”