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One man's trash is a farmer's treasure

November 28, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

LEETOWN, W.Va. - Scraps of lumber, including two-by-fours, sit in a huge pile.

Trash, you might say.

Not to Cam Tabb.

Soon it will be animal bedding.

Huge tree stumps that were pulled out of the ground to make way for housing developments sit in another pile.

Worthless?

Think again.

Soon they will be ground and made into mulch.

Tabb is a longtime farmer in Jefferson County but he has become increasingly known for his recycling operations.

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In 1991, Tabb started taking a manure and sawdust mixture from Charles Town Races and transforming it into compost at his farm along Leetown Pike.

Tabb said he has been using about 98 percent of the rich soil to fertilize his cornfields.

It didn't stop there.

When the LCS Services Inc. landfill near Hedgesville, W.Va., began hitting its monthly tonnage limit before the end of the month and local housing builders were having difficulty getting rid of their debris, some developers called Tabb for help.

Tabb agreed to accept the material and grind it with an array of heavy equipment he has at his farm.

Tabb initially used the material for bedding for his cattle, which number about 380.

Then other people wanted it.

Now Tabb sells the material and delivers it to customers around the county, most of whom are horse breeders.

Tabb said he is providing bedding for about 800 horses.

"We sort of cultivated a market," Tabb said.

Tabb's composting operation has helped areas like the City of Charles Town get rid of yard waste.

Once a week, Charles Town residents can place yard waste at the curb by their homes for pick-up. The material was taken to city property along Water Street and ground up, said Charles Town City Council member Randy Breeden. The idea was to offer the mulch-like material to people for free.

But no one used the material and city officials had to find another way to get rid of it, Breeden said.

Tabb agreed to accept the yard waste, and now city workers take the material to Tabb's farm to be turned into compost.

"We're very thankful because he's not charging us anything for it. It's a win-win situation for the city," Breeden said.

In fact, anyone can take yard waste to Tabb's farm for free and Tabb said people take material to him on a regular basis, particularly in the fall and spring.

"We'll be getting a lot of leaves in the next few weeks," Tabb said.

At home-building sites in Jefferson and Berkeley counties, Tabb leases large refuse containers to builders like Dan Ryan Builders and American Homes for workers to dispose of building materials. When the containers become full, developers call Tabb and he has an empty one delivered to the site within 24 hours.

The material is taken to an open field on Tabb's farm. On a recent tour of the operation, Tabb showed a reporter large piles of material in various stages of processing.

Hardly anything goes to waste there.

Besides the piles of compost and mulch, there was a pile of topsoil that Tabb extracted from tree stumps. Any rocks that are combed out of the materials are set aside and sometimes used for a base on Tabb's farm roads.

Innovation seems to be an ongoing process at Tabb's farm.

Last year, Tabb began using biodiesel - an alternative fuel made from mixing diesel fuel with soybean oil - to run his fleet of trucks in his recycling business.

One of the advantages of the fuel it is easier on the environment because it burns cleaner, Tabb said.

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