Howard Stenn's interest in composting germinated at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology farm. During his 2 years as a farm apprentice and teaching assistant, he discovered that generous use of compost yields vigorous plants that outgrow pests and stresses from both natural forces and growers' missteps.
When Howard moved to Seattle, among his first stops was Seattle Tilth where he found (past WORC President) Jeff Gage plumbing a compost-heated hot tub at the city's first Backyard Composting Demonstration. Soon Howard was managing the new Master Composter program, which he helped teach for over 20 years.
That early step into the compost field lead to work on product standards and application guidelines for municipalities and the US Composting Council, quality control and market development for commercial composters, and a stint supervising manure and bark composting for a bagged soils manufacturer.
Howard led the team that developed specifications for the Post Construction Soil Quality BMP for WDOE's Stormwater Manual. The BMP calls for preserving native soils at new developments, or amending disturbed and imported soils with compost to restore stormwater infiltration and storage capacities.
Work on the BMP lead to varied projects investigating soils for bioretention and other Low Impact Development applications. He promotes the use of unscreened native soils amended with moderate amounts of stable compost to preserve soil structure, minimizing use of mined sand or fine screening soil and compost.
Amid this mix Howard continues to work on technical and policy initiatives for government agencies, so don't be surprised if you get a call asking about your experience or opinion of various practices.