There’s a saying you’ve probably heard: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” For Sussex County entrepreneur Bruce Blessing, the waste produced by Delmarva’s bustling poultry industry is his composting treasure. At his sprawling facility on the outskirts of Milford, Blessing cooks up his premium Blessings Blends compost by combining brush, chicken manure, hatchery waste and leaves, and then curing the mixture. The final composting product is used by farmers and amateur gardeners to grow larger, healthier plants.
Cultivating his business hasn’t been easy — there have been some hiccups along the way. Blessing, though, is no stranger to adversity. He learned the value of hard work growing up on a small farm in Houston, Delaware. When Blessing was 17, his father became ill. To support his family, the high school student worked full time at a local chicken processing plant. From 9 p.m. until 6 a.m., Blessing would labor at the plant. He’d then head home, shower and go to school.
Decades of hard work have now paid off. Blessing and his partner, Marion Chandler, who serves as the director of operations, now employ 15 people. Aside from the composting business, the pair manage
2 acres of greenhouses. In spring and summer, the greenhouses are a vibrant sea of color. Geraniums, impatiens, other bedding plants and herbs come into bloom before being sold at a produce and flower stand along Delaware 1. "We’ve made gardening affordable for Sussex County. Most plants are $1, and even the large planting containers are only $20. We haven’t raised our flower prices in 25 years,” said Blessing.
In 2020, the roadside stand will sell an estimated 250,000 flowers and 10,000 mums. While all the flowers and plants Blessing grows are currently purchased locally, his business used to provide plants to retailers across the mid-Atlantic. Blessing said his flowers have even been planted in the gardens at the White House.
With an eye on sustainability, Blessing is planning for a massive expansion of his business. By the spring of 2021, he hopes to break ground on a new large composting building that will capture the heat generated by curing compost to warm the greenhouses. There are also plans to add wind turbines to generate clean energy for the facility. According to Blessing, “As the business grows, you begin to think about what your legacy will be. We’re interested in what we can do for our community and the environment.”
Expansion plans also call for the addition of new greenhouses — one-third of the new space will be used as a butterfly sanctuary with the hope of expanding agritourism in southern Delaware. After years of dedication building the greenhouses and compost facility, Blessing and Chandler hope the future of the enterprise is bright.