Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

From Cow Flop to Flowerpot: Using Excess Manure Naturally

I actually stole this observation from a stand-up comic whose name I can’t recall: you’ve seen people walking their dogs in a city. If you own a dog, or dogs, you probably do this as well. The dog poops on the sidewalk and the owner dutifully scoops it up into a plastic bag, to be disposed of in their trash later. Now, I’m not suggesting that people not curb their dogs; on the contrary—please pick up after your dog. But have you ever considered the absurdity of taking one of the most biodegradable substances there is and putting it into one of the most non-biodegradable containers, to be preserved for thousands of years and discoverd by some unlucky future archaeologist? It’s a little silly.

Now imagine your dog pooped 120 pounds of manure a day. Actually, don’t imagine that. It’s horrible. I’m sorry. But let’s say you have cows. You’ve got to do something with all that waste, all that methane. Even if you use it to fertilize your fields, there’s the problem of potential stream runoff. What do you do?

Enter the CowPot™.

From the New York Times:

IN almost-spring, as itchy gardeners drag out grow lights and seed-starting flats, it seems a fitting moment to trace the germ of a new and very green gardening idea. It first took root beside a reeking, unspeakable lagoon in the northwest corner of Connecticut and is blossoming sweetly nationwide. Kindly summon a gardener’s tolerance for earthy subject matter as this gritty tale unfolds:

More than a decade ago — she thinks it was in 1998 — Jane Slupecki, a marketing representative for the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, took a group of Litchfield County dairy farmers to a brainstorming dinner at a lovely lakeside inn there. Her agency had a small grant to try to find possible solutions to a big, stinky problem.

“Cow manure,” Ms. Slupecki recalls. “Endless tons of it. We were concerned about how farmers returned manure nutrients to their fields, and how we could prevent runoff of excess nitrogen and phosphorus into watersheds.” Since farms in riparian areas were of particular concern, most of the dairymen invited to dinner were grazing cows near the Blackberry River, which in turn feeds the mighty Housatonic. Their hostess remembers it as “just a lovely dinner,” but we will spare the reader the technical points of the conversation.

“Cow poop is cow poop,” admits Ms. Slupecki, who was feeling some frustration at the paucity of workable suggestions by the time they reached dessert and coffee. Half in jest, she blurted, “Can’t you guys do something with this stuff — make a flowerpot or something?”

Those were fateful words for brothers Ben and Matthew Freund, second-generation dairy farmers who at the time maintained a herd of 225 Holsteins in East Canaan. Each cow produces 120 pounds of manure daily. Why not grow flowers and tomatoes from cow flops? It took eight years’ development, a $72,000 federal grant secured through Connecticut’s Agricultural Businesses Cluster, and countless grim experiments. Now their manure-based CowPots — biodegradable seed-starting containers — are being made on the farm and sold to commercial and backyard growers who prefer their advantages over plastic pots.

Molded of dried, deodorized manure fibers, CowPots hold water well, last for months in a greenhouse and can then be planted directly into the ground, sparing the seedling transplant shock and letting tender new roots penetrate easily. As the pots decompose, they continue to fertilize the plant and attract beneficial worms.

Read the whole article.

 

Related articles:


Top 10 favorite goat facts (with gifs)

New this month from author Gianaclis Caldwell, Holistic Goat Care is the essential resource on caring for your herd. Goats have provided humankind with essential products for centuries; indeed, they bear the noble distinction of being the first domesticated farm animal. From providing milk and meat for sustenance and fiber and hides for clothing and shelter […] Read More

Chelsea Green Weekly for May 5, 2017

Ever wonder what your favorite Chelsea Green authors do between writing groundbreaking–both literally and figuratively–books? Here are the best links and resources for your weekend reading pleasure. Let’s start with The Alzheimer’s Antidote. The Alzheimer’s Antidote Amy Berger has been making the rounds on the health, wellness, and fitness circuit, explaining the theories behind her revolutionary […] Read More

Learn from Chelsea Green authors this summer at Sterling College

Each summer, the School of the New American Farmstead at Sterling College in Vermont offers continuing education designed specifically for “agrarians, culinarians, entrepreneurs, and lifelong learners.” Chelsea Green is proud to partner with this program so you can learn from our expert authors in a hands-on, experiential setting at Sterling’s farm and teaching kitchen. Be sure to read […] Read More

New French edition of The Resilient Farm and Homestead available

Great news for French-speaking fans of Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. The French language translation is now available from Imagine Un Colibri, from French booksellers, and on Amazon.fr. Falk’s book is a technical manual that details the strategies he and his team have developed for […] Read More

How to Make Biochar

Doing some spring cleaning around your property? By making biochar from brush and other hard-to-compost organic material, you can improve soil—it enhances nutrient availability and also enables soil to retain nutrients longer. This excerpt from The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3, explains how to get started. To make biochar right in your garden, start by […] Read More
+1
Tweet
Share
Share
Pin