By John Diggs
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
When Justen Garrity got back to the United States after spending 10 years in the military, he couldn’t find anyone who would give him a job.
So instead of working for someone else, the then 28-year-old Columbia resident decided to work for himself.
At first, Garrity didn’t know what kind of business to start.
Then he thought … compost.
Veteran Compost, which was founded in 2010, collects food scraps from clients in Maryland, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The company then composts the scraps and sells the end product.
“I think I want to have a facility in every county in Maryland,” Garrity said. “I want to have five [to] 10 facilities in the next five [to] 10 years.”
One of the company’s partners is the Harford County public school system, which has 12 schools participating and has been working with the company for five years.
“We are excited to partner with Veteran Compost so we can align our environmental curriculum with what this company does,” said Andrew Cassilly, the resource conservation manger for HCPS.
The more the company grows, the more Garrity has been recognized by others. He has been mentioned on ABC News, Modern Farmer and was one of the Baltimore Business Journal’s 40 under 40.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” Garrity said. “I’m trying to move the business forward so that recognition is good.”
While Garrity likes the recognition for the business, he makes sure that it doesn’t go to his head.
“I don’t get too caught up with myself,” Garrity said. “I am still in touch with my friends and family.”
Garrity also doesn’t forget about where he was before the business. He has used the things that he learned while in the military to help the business grow as much as it has.
“All the things important in the military – intuition, leadership and self-discipline – I try to use when running the business,” Garrity said.
Garrity spent 15 months in Iraq as a combat engineer officer, where he lived where ISIS is right now.
“Makes you not want to be in Iraq,” Garrity said.
Garrity also spent time in Korea and Kuwait and spent five years in the National Guard.
Garrity encourages other veterans to consider starting their own businesses.
“If they did well in the military they can handle it,” Garrity said.
Garrity also tries to help those veterans who are in the same position that he was in six years ago. He does volunteer work and his company tries to hire veterans as often as it can, Garrity said. He also does some training for veterans who want to get into farming.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a role model, but it is nice to help people out,” Garrity said.