The Dirt on Malibu Compost
By Jimy Tallal / Special to The Malibu Times
The Malibu name has been put on many different products over the years — the Chevy Malibu, Malibu Rum, Malibu hair product lines and Malibu Lighting, to name a few — but this may be the first time the name has been plastered on bags of cow manure. Customers shopping at Anawalt Malibu Hardware & Supply or Malibu Feed Bin have seen the big bags of Malibu Compost, complete with a surfing cow on the front.
Malibu Compost is the brainchild of Randy Ritchie, who spent weekends with his dad in Malibu while he was growing up, later graduating from Pepperdine University. Ritchie started an organic landscaping and soil consulting business with a number of Malibu clients and eventually became aware of an unfilled product niche in the marketplace — no one was selling organic compost that also came with a “biodynamic” certification.
“Biodynamic” means the ingredients come from certified farms that follow certain sustainable agricultural practices. The farms must demonstrate a healthy integration of crops and livestock, have a certain amount of wild or uncultivated land as part of a biodiversity requirement, and use biodynamic preparations to amend the soil.
“I grew up surfing at Zuma and Surfrider,” Ritchie said. “And because of that, I really look at the environmental impact of stuff. I want everything to be water and ocean friendly.”
Malibu Compost is the only “biodynamic” commercial compost product on the market. It was given the Malibu name because of Ritchie’s fondness for the place and also because his very first customers for the product back in 2009 were in Malibu. The manure used to make the compost comes primarily from one farm near Modesto and another in Oregon — both homes to many happy dairy cows.
“We foster and choose the dairies we work with to have very high animal rights standards,” Ritchie said.
The finished product isn’t just cow manure from organic cows; it’s the end result of a five-month process that begins with manure being placed in 150- to 200-feet long rows that are combined with wood chips and biodynamic ingredients, like chamomile. A fermentation process takes place where the piles are turned periodically and never allowed to reach an internal temperature higher than 160 degrees. When ready, the mixture is run through a screener, put on a truck and taken to a packaging plant.
“Nobody makes it the way we make it. We’re striving to make the truest organic compost you can buy,” Ritchie said. “It’s GMO-free and we test it for herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and heavy metals. It has such a high purity level; we’re basically making food-grade compost.”
Kenny Prugh, a landscaping associate at Anawalt Malibu Hardware & Supply, said, “Everyone that uses it loves it. It’s a real high-quality soil amendment, and it never has any sticks or twigs in it.”
Anawalt Associate Herbert Castillo concurred. “Customers love it. The compost, in combination with their compost teas, revitalizes your soil.”
Malibu Compost has expanded its product line to include potting soil, seed-starter pots and compost “teas.” The products are now carried in over 500 West Coast stores — primarily in independent nurseries and garden centers.
Ritchie thinks using the word “Malibu” in the product name actually helps the City’s image.
“The logo helps Malibu,” he said. “When we’re out marketing, we promote the fact that Malibu was one of the old ranchos and has a rich history with the Chumash, etc. We put a lot of love out to Malibu.”
Ritchie and his business partner, Colum Riley, share the same philosophy.
“Most people care more about money, but we think if you do the right thing, your bottom line will reflect that. People trust us,” Ritchie reflected. “We wanted to show you could make money and still do something good for the planet.”