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Essential growth

Cold Spring, Minn.- Mississippi Topsoils, a company that helps plants grow, is doing some growing of its own.

The premium compost manufacturer is expanding its Soil Essentials line to include potting soil, a planting mix and a top-dressing mix for golf courses and athletic fields. Four years ago, Mississippi Topsoils launched Soil Essentials Premium Compost, made from poultry and forest products.

A diversified product line improves the company’s appeal to garden centers and distributors, says Brad Matuska, Mississippi Topsoils co-owner. “As we grow and diversify, these products offer us another outlet.”

Mississippi Topsoils uses community tree trimmings and dried poultry processing waste from the adjacent Gold ‘n Plump plant. The ingredients are blended in 20-ton sealed bins.

Computers control the entire composting process: mixing waste materials, maintaining optimum temperatures within the bins, recycling leachate and channeling exhaust to reduce odors. Each compost batch cooks about nine months while heat and beneficial bacteria transform the wastes into clean, odorless humus.

Some of the compost is bagged and sold as is, some is blended with peat and perlite to make potting soil, and some with topsoil to make the planting mix.

The Soil Essentials Planting Mix, designed for outdoor and garden use, is available in 40-pound bags and in bulk. The potting soil is available in 1 cubic-foot bags. Matuska says the company could potentially produce 270,000 bags of potting soil and 350,000 bags of the planting mix.

Mississippi Topsoils is also marketing bulk quantities of a compost blend that has been hammer-milled to a fine consistency. It is used as a top dressing for golf courses and sports fields.

Besides increasing Soil Essentials’ presence at garden centers, distributing multiple products is more economical than shipping a single product, Matuska says. Currently, about 50 Minnesota garden centers carry the Soil Essentials line, but Matuska expects to add another 25.

“They’re following a plan for controlled growth,” says Michael Sparby, AURI project director. “Diversifying is an important part of their overall marketing plan.”

“Our big marketing push is to establish the Soil Essentials premium product line,” Matuska adds. “It’s part of our maturation process.”