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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Making a living using Animal Waste

I grew up on a farm in Nebraska. One year in an effort to save money, my dad decided to fertilize the fields with chicken manure. For you city folk out there who don’t know what this smells like and think a baby’s diaper is nasty, think again. In fact, if I were to rank feces according to stench, it would go something like this:

5. human (babies included)
4. dog
3. pig
2. horse
1. chickens

I remember at the time, Dad promised the manure would be away from the house. However, there were several windy days and that smell aerated an entire square mile, including where our house was, so I breathed the fumes for days, weeks. Even farming neighbors were complaining. That was the last time Dad used chicken manure as fertilizer.

What Dad should have used instead was Moo-Doo, from Foster Brothers Farms. Foster Brothers is a fifth generation farm in Vermont. They now produce over 8 million pounds of milk a year. However, during the energy crisis in the 70’s, they needed something besides milk to keep the farm running. They began using cow manure to produce electricity. They built what they call an anaerobic digester that uses bacteria to break down the manure into methane gas. Going one step beyond this, in 1989 they decided to begin composting the manure to be used as a fertilizer. When neighbors learned what the Foster brothers were doing, word spread throughout the community and eventually the entire region. Apparently this fertilizer is more productive and more natural than other fertilizers. Now a subsidiary of Vermont Natural Ag products, they have become a leader in the production of soils and composts using manure. And since the cow manure they use is composted and some is dehydrated, it probably doesn't have a strong odor like the chicken manure my dad used.

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t said...

There is a company out there who sells waste, and their motto is: "We're number 1 in the number 2 business." They sell manure at primo prices.

God, you just reminded me of that chicken manure. I guess that's why it's good to have a sibling. I would have forgotten all about it.