“We had gone from all the lagoons being full to all of them being empty because (the waste) couldn’t be digested quick enough,” he said.
The percent of organic matter in the soil, which helps crops grow better on Birmingham Farm’s property, has increased from one to three percent because of the application of the waste.
If the cropland doesn’t require all the fertilizer on hand, Walters applies it to treed areas. He said he tries to limit this to every two to three years because the nitrogen in the fertilizer makes the trees grow too fast without developing a strong trunk.
There are 100,000 trees planted on Birmingham Farm land, and they all act as a buffer for the farm to decrease nutrient leaching and protect surface and groundwater quality.
While Walters and his four employees are in charge of applying fertilizer to the land every year, he contracts out the corn farming responsibilities to local farmers. He and his crew do take care of the soybean crop, though.
Application of the fertilizer takes an average of 47 days with a rate of 144 dry tons being applied to 26.4 acres a day. That’s a lot of fertilizer, but Walters said he hasn’t received a complaint about the smell.
“The high (application) rates help with odor complaints, because we can get it done quicker,” he said.
Once the crops are harvested, the soybeans are sold to the Paseo-Cargill Biodiesel Plant in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, MO. The corn is sold to Bartlett Grain Company in St. Joseph, MO, which mixes the corn with other farmers’ crops and sends it to Mexico to produce high-fructose corn syrup.
The Water Services Deptartment farm averages yearly net income of $455,451. The income is placed into Water Service’s general operating funds, Walters said. He estimated it takes $150,000 to plant the crop, spray the land and harvest the crop.
In the future, Walters said he wants to irrigate the sandier, and less productive, areas to increase yields. He also wants to buy more land to expand the farm. He sees the potential of adding 200 more acres, but he said he wants to do it carefully so it does not disrupt neighbors.
“We’re isolated, and that’s how I think we should stay,” Walters said.