Royal Oak Farm, LLC is a small business owned primarily by the Newman family. They employ two workforces at their 115 acre property in Evington, Virginia - a full-time staff of 13 who manage everything from trucking to compost production to animal feed distribution; and an invisible workforce no one ever sees. This second workforce labors quietly, behind the scenes, without complaint over office issues and never disputes its rate of pay. These Royal Oak staff consist of microbes, billions of them, that do most of the hard work of creating compost from wastes generated by Virginia industries, businesses and municipalities.
The passage of years, circumstances, and variables beyond the Newman's control, such as weather and voracious canines, transformed the initial focus of Royal Oak Farm. At first, they raised dairy replacement heifers. That didn't work out. Not to be undone, the Newmans then envisioned a thriving operation of pasture raised hogs and free range chickens. Marauding dog packs, and the propensity of swine to uproot every piece of vegetation in their paths, soon tempered the family's early dream.
Frustration, however, gave birth to innovation. Newman changed his hog business from farrow to finish on pasture to a finishing operation in hoop barns. His hogs, healthy, active and unfettered, ambled comfortably about the very spacious barns. He developed a small composting operation to handle the manure, the waste bedding, and some of the food discards he’d been feeding to the hogs. Over time, though, Newman became concerned about the increasing regulations governing hog raising. “Due to concerns over food safety, the buyers of farm-raised hogs want a complete tracking dossier on each hog, documenting everything that’s been done to raise that animal,” he said. These concerns, coupled with several years of drought-induced poor hay crop growth in central Virginia, led Newman to rethink his strategy in 2005. He found that many of the regional animal agriculture farmers were looking for a reliable source of high-quality animal feeds, which Royal Oak provides by recycling discards from food processing, and that several businesses, most notably a paper manufacturer in Bedford County, were interested in the Royal Oak composting operation. So Royal Oak reorganized its business into two operating divisions – animal fodders distribution and commercial-scale composting.
Recycling products from food manufacturers into animal fodders (feed) is a win-win situation for the corporations, as well as for Royal Oak. The first company they contacted was a potato-chip maker in Lynchburg, Va., which was quite interested in a means to get rid of waste left over from the manufacture of potato chips. "They produce 20 tons of waste a day," Newman said. "We got more food waste (potato skins, corn, not finished chips) than anticipated, so we began supplying dairy and beef farmers with the surplus.” In addition, Royal Oak Farm has contracts with a bakery in Lynchburg, and a fried foods maker in Bedford.
Royal Oak is one of the premier composting operations in the eastern U.S. Composting is the controlled aerobic decomposition of biodegradable materials. Thermophilic temperatures higher than 135 degrees destroy pathogens and weed seeds. The end product of this integrated system is a stable, mature, highly aerobic compost that is extremely beneficial in farming, gardening and landscaping. Careful selection of compost feedstock materials results in a high quality finished product. All the ingredients, according to Newman, are organic, and contain no human waste.
Composting is done on a 10-acre paved asphalt pad, using top-line processing equipment. The manufacturing process is carefully controlled and the compost is used by contractors, businesses and homeowners throughout central and western Virginia. The compost is also used as an ingredient in several customized soil blends Royal Oak sells. For more information about our compost products, please visit our Blueblood™ Landscape Products page.
There's always something going on at Royal Oak Farm. Royal Oak Farm is a unique operation, but it points the way to the future. The progressive philosophy of Royal Oak can be expressed in three words "Reclamation, Conservation, Innovation".
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