By Suzannah Schneider, Communications Manager and Certification Coordinator
Brooks Contractor is so much more than a compost company.
Sure, the North Carolina operation diverts massive amounts of food waste from landfill and creates top notch compost blends, but the business is deeply committed to supporting farmers (and eaters) at all points in the food system. We spoke with Amy Brooks Fulford, Brooks Contractor's Food Waste Collection Manager, to learn more about her mission in North Carolina and beyond.
Plus: do you live in North Carolina and want to learn more about hemp production? Be sure to register for the Industrial Hemp Workshop from 4–9 p.m. on Thursday, February 28 in Pittsboro. Amy will be presenting on growing hemp in poor NC soils! More details can be found here.
Certified Naturally Grown (CNG): How did Brooks Contractor get started?
Amy Brooks Fulford (ABF): We are a family owned and operated business that emerged from pure sweat and determination by my parents, Dean and Judy Brooks. They purchased this land and started a dairy from scratch back in the mid 1970s and were financially forced to get out of the business in the late 80s, due to the "get big or get out" agricultural movement as well as the questionable hormone usage that had started to take hold of the industry.
They had worked so hard to build everything here and didn't want to lose it all. After stumbling around with a few other farming ventures that wouldn't pay the bills, my dad thought he might give composting a try since he had already learned to compost the dairy manure. We hit it at a time when all the major cities in our area hit a huge growth spurt, so business took off within a few years and we have been growing ever since. We were the first Type 3 permitted compost facility in North Carolina.
CNG: What are Brooks Contractor's core values?
ABF: Since we're a family business, we treat our customers like family. When you call, you're speaking to someone who is genuinely interested in helping you and excited about the path you're on.
We value our relationship with the community and try to create a balanced approach to waste management that is both affordable and beneficial. Today's business world has turned into one where someone figures something out and tries to keep it a secret so they can take advantage of someone else and profit from it. But there is so much more to this world than making a dollar and I think our attitude about that follows through to our customer base. We are incredibly blessed to be working with people who are trying to make a lasting difference in society, whether by diverting their waste from the landfill and sending it to the soil, or someone planting something beautiful or nourishing.
CNG: How did you make the decision to support CNG as a Business Ally?
ABF: I think CNG is doing good work. We've worked with so many farmers to improve their soil over the years, and once they have prepped the soil with compost there is little need to use harsh chemicals for production. Many of them don't want the hassle of a USDA organic program, and many don't need that certification to sell their products anyway. But I'd still like to see these farmers get credit for the hard work they do, and I feel like the CNG label is an affordable compromise that would work really well for most of the farms we work with. I'd like to see CNG's North Carolina map covered with farms of high-quality production, and I think we can help to stimulate that.
CNG: What are some exciting developments at Brooks Contractor our CNG community can look forward to in 2019 and beyond?
ABF: We are hitting another growth spurt and I get the feeling that 2019 might be the year that compost is finally recognized for its tried and true work in soil restoration. We look forward to growing our product line to meet the needs of our clients, working more with hemp farmers in NC, and definitely working more with school systems. It is so important to teach children responsibility and respect, and our lunchroom composting programs are effective at doing that. They gain responsibility to sort their waste properly and overall to do their best at reducing it, but also to respect nature's systems so that we can build for the next generation instead of continuing to lead a destructive lifestyle.
CNG: It's a tough question, but what is your favorite item in the Brooks Contractor store?
ABF: Definitely our all-purpose compost, BR-1. It's our original product. Over the years the inputs have been streamlined to produce what we feel is the best quality, humus-rich compost on the East Coast, and certainly the most affordable for its quality. This compost has been used on countless farms across NC, public and teaching gardens, world-class landscaping projects, university research plots, bioremediation projects, and for just about any purpose - including turning a gravel parking lot into a lawn.
The best part about selling this compost is knowing that when we send out a big truckload, something is going to get planted! The most important parts of soil building are to replenish (with compost), plant it so you have a living root, and cover the soil if you can. From that point on, the microbiology in the compost does the rest of the work and will continue to get better with age. Compost will bring on the worms too, and every farmer loves free worm poop!
Landscaper's topsoil blend, our BR-4. It's a ready to plant in mix that contains approximately 50% compost.
CNG: If you had a magic agricultural wand, how would you use it to improve farm systems in America?
ABF: I would want to see all farms have affordable access to locally produced compost in large quantities. That would be the foundation of my perfect farm system, and from there it's all about the people. I'd make sure kids are being served the freshest, healthiest foods direct from local farms and would also make sure they knew who grew their meal. I'd do the same with every meal served, whether its at the family table, local restaurant, hospital: wherever there is a meal there should be something super fresh and healthy because that's the only way we're getting out of the mess many farmers and eaters find themselves in.
CNG: Is there anything else CNG growers should know?
ABF: Keep up the good work! We're going to get through this time in history, and we'll all look back and realize all the hard work and collaboration was worth it. Soon enough regenerative farming is going to be a no-brainer and the consumer is going to appreciate you for it. Realize your family and your land are the most important areas you'll ever spend time on, and your community is the most important client. We are truly honored to be part of the farmer's toolkit and know farm communities all over this country will step up and save our soil and water systems. Our compost will end up being such a tiny part of the solution. The real solution is going to come from people that are willing to spend the time it takes to make our food systems work for the grower and the consumer.