Carter Schmidt: Dirt TycoonWell, at least I think he’s 10. He might still be 9, I’m not sure when Carter Schmidt’s birthday is. He’s quite an enterprising kid for his age, and perhaps America’s youngest dirt tycoon. It began with just Carter, but from what I understand, he’s now got a posse of kids helping with the weekly collections of kitchen waste for Carter’s Compost business in Traverse City, Michigan.

How did a boy get started in the dirt manufacturing business? It started with his dad wishing for more compost for the garden. Ty Schmidt had heard of other community composting programs, and saw no reason why it wouldn’t work there, and came up with the idea of Carter doing the collection at a price that anyone would love. Folks around Traverse City loved it so much that Carter’s little startup business had 65 residential and business customers by May 2013. Regular customers who pay him $5.00 a month to haul away their kitchen scraps year around.

He picks up their bucket every week, and leaves an empty one behind. In the spring, he delivers rich compost for their garden manufactured in one of his piles from their garbage. A year ago he said his mom was against any more piles in her yard. Who could blame her? There were already 7 piles in her standard city sized lot. So, they started a pile sharing program enlisting neighbors to share space in return for great garden soil conditioner. There are also people who want to participate that are beyond the pedaled pickup zone, and for them they’ve got drop-off boxes.

Carter's Compost Collection Rig

Carter’s Compost Collection Rig

Carter says he’s a worm rancher too. His worm herds that number in the hundreds of thousands help to break down the collected waste into soil again. They don’t do all the work alone, however. Carter turns the piles regularly, and has enlisted the help of some feathered friends too. He’s got chickens who dig in the piles, and give him manure to make his compost even better for growing great gardens. Hence, the bird included on the Carter’s Compost logo seen on his collection buckets and crew apparel.

It’s not always easy money, the boy has determination. Hauling buckets of food waste when it’s 90-degrees on a summer day, or over icy and snow covered walks in the dead of winter isn’t a kid’s idea of a good time. Carter however is propelled by cash. You know any 8-10 year old boys who earn over $4000 a year with their bicycle? At least that’s about how much he was making more than 12 months ago. His business has way more customers today. So many in fact, that they’re always looking for responsible kids with a bike who are eager to establish a Carter’s Compost run. Boy or girl, it matters not. They aren’t really employees, or a franchise. They own the equipment and must maintain it, but all the money collected from their pickups is theirs to keep.

So now one gardener’s brainstorm for getting more compost for his garden has turned his son into a dirt tycoon with so many accounts they have expanded to multiple composting locations, and have a small army of budding entrepreneurs pedaling all over town. Carter’s also learning wise money management. He puts $3.00 from every payment in the bank, $1.00 gets rolled back into his business, and that last buck? It’s his spending money.

Here’s Carter doing a presentation on his green business at school two years ago:

Traverse City is not a huge city, and if a composting business like this can be so successful in Northern Michigan, there’s no reason it wouldn’t work just about anywhere. You don’t need huge trucks and expensive equipment to turn kitchen scraps into soil enriching goodness. Both businesses and residences are eager to participate. It’s good for the environment, and an excellent experience for a youngster to learn responsibility, work ethics, make some money, and learn the smart way to handle money along the way. He’s also getting on the job training for customer service and business management. If Carter sticks with this while he grows, he’ll be a very savvy guy by the time he gets out of high school. He could also become a major player in the commercial compost industry.

Learn more at CartersCompost.com.

All images courtesy of Carter’s Compost.

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Content crafter and Senior Editor at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home. (Some feel she's got a perennial obsession, others say the problem is tomato plants.)

If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.
Tammy Clayton

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