GREENFIELD — When Boston Marathon organizers approached 35-year-old Adam Martin of Martin’s Farm, he remembers his first thought was “Holy smokes.”
Martin, who runs a family-owned business that produces compost and mulch for the Western Massachusetts community, recalled the race organizers were looking for ways to make one of the world’s oldest and largest marathons a little “greener.” He said organizers expressed interest in collaborating with the farm to compost water and Gatorade cups used along the course at the 2020 Boston Marathon.
“I thought it was pretty neat,” he said.
Although the marathon has since been rescheduled to Sept. 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) still plans to work with Martin to compost cups used on race day, according to the association’s Communication Manager Chris Lotsbom.
“This is one of our biggest sustainability initiatives surrounding the 2020 event,” Lotsbom said in a statement. He noted this is the first time the BAA is composting cups used along the course.
Martin said he’s “sad and disappointed” the event won’t take place this month, but understands it is a necessary precaution.
“I’m just praying for this town, these people, this community,” he said, noting he was more saddened by the number of people who have fallen sick or died from the illness. “I care about people.”
With water stations at every mile of the 26.2-mile race, as many as 1.7 million cups are tossed aside by runners, according to Martin. That volume of cups would create roughly six tons of compost.
Once the compostable cups are picked up by race day volunteers, Martin said they will be brought to the farm at 341 Plain Road. From beginning to end, the composting process takes between three and four months to complete.
He said the opportunity to provide composting services for the marathon is a big deal for the local farm, which has been struggling financially.
“Composting is the main revenue of the farm,” he said, and due to significant rainfall in recent years, the farm has had difficulty screening compost, or sifting for foreign objects, to prepare it for sale.
On top of that, the farm has lost business with the closure of restaurants, schools and universities during the pandemic.
Martin said he doesn’t anticipate the race’s change of date will impact the number of runners or the volume of cups collected for composting.
“This is going to be like a revival,” he said. “I don’t think people who earned their way in are just going to quit now.”
Martin would know. He’s a runner, too.
“I have a passion for running,” he said. “With four kids, a wife and a business, there’s not a lot of time to do that.”
So, he wakes up each day for his daily run at 3 or 4 a.m.
“The running really just helps me clear my head and have some quiet time with the Lord,” he said.
In working with race organizers, Martin earned himself a spot in the race — one he still plans to use. Although he recently took some time off from running, Martin said he’s ready to get back into it in preparation for September.
“I’ll be running, representing Franklin County,” he said.
Martin said he wants to use this opportunity for his farm as an opportunity to encourage others to think more about the choices they make and how those choices affect the environment.
(Composting) is full circle,” he said. “Taking in organic waste, bringing it to the farm … and less than a year later, it can be put back into the ground to grow your fruits, your vegetables, and then (composted) all over again.”
Mary Byrne can be reached at email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.