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Rich Riedei, Freestate Farms Marketing Director, showing off his compost during a tour. 

There really isn’t anything more important than the soil we walk on.  One of the best ways to improve the quality of that soil is to add compost.  This simple amendment provides the nutrients your plants need for optimum growth, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.  

Prince William County’s Solid Waste Division actually is in the compost business.  It has launched a public/private partnership with Freestate Farms to outsource transformation of food and yard waste from cities, businesses and individuals into high-quality compost, renewable energy and organic produce. 

This relationship has many practical and environmental benefits for the county and its residents.  These benefits include increased soil health and productivity, reduced water use and pollution and minimized greenhouse gas emissions.

Although many take it for granted, Prince William’s solid waste operation is one of the best in the country. Tom Smith, the chief of the division, gave me a tour of the landfill a couple of years ago.  I wrote about it in a column titled “Don’t call it a dump”.  I was impressed with the emphasis on new technology and public/private partnerships.  The public/private partnership with Freestate Farms at its Balls Ford Road operation particularly caught my attention.

This operation was the brainchild of Freestate Farms’ CEO, Doug Ross.  Ross is a visionary entrepreneur who saw a way to invest in a profitable venture while saving Prince William taxpayers money and serving the public’s interest.  Ross presented his proposal to the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors in 2015.  It was quickly adopted.  Freestate Farms invested $20 million in the project.  The facility did not require the county to take on any debt.  The ribbon on this new facility was cut in 2020.  

I visited Freestate Farms’ compost operation on Balls Ford and talked to Rich Riedel, marketing director.  Previously, heavy machinery was used to process organic waste.  Riedel shared that Freestate Farms is piloting a number of leading-edge technologies to recycle food and yard waste into products that can improve the quality of soil for homes and businesses. 

The company’s investment in advanced technology has resulted in increased production of a quality product using an environmentally friendly process.  They literally turn our yard waste into a product we can buy at modest cost to improve the quality of our property’s soil.  This will extend the life of the county’s landfill for 15 years and more than double the county’s yearly composting capability for food and yard waste.  

This is Phase 1 of Freestate Farm’s operation.  It has been a resounding success for all parties involved.  It’s also an example of just how successful public partner/private partnerships are good for county government and entrepreneurs.   The partners are already planning to invest in and expand its capabilities in a second phase. 

Prince William’s Solid Waste Division and its partners will host a Compost Awareness Day on Saturday, May 8, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Balls Ford Road Compost Facility, 13000 Balls Ford Road.  Take the family.  It is particularly important to introduce children to subjects such as this.  Hopefully, we can teach them just how important 6 inches of topsoil is to our future, and theirs.

Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week.  You can learn more about Al at and LinkedIn.

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