What to do with the Poop?
If you have ever been on a dairy farm, you know that there is a lot of poop to deal with, and I mean that quite literally. Manure management is a large part of a diary operation, and over the past several years, many Utah farmers have come up with innovative ways to deal with poop. From methane digesters, to separation and reclamation, there are an increasing number of ways to manage manure and reduce carbon emissions. In the case of Trent Bown’s farm, his compost operation has been an excellent way to handle excess manure AND provide a service to the local community.
Compost – vegetable gardeners call it “Black Gold” and swear that good compost helps grow the most delicious, nutrient-rich, bountiful harvest. But finding good compost isn’t always easy. You want just the right ratio of carbon to nitrogen, allowing plants to thrive.
For Trent, what started out 6 or 7 years ago as a necessity, has blossomed into a full-fledged compost operation. “Initially,” he recalls, “we were just looking for a way to get rid of raw manure. We had too much raw material to spread directly on our crop fields, and needed a place to put it.” For the first few years, he remembers that the operation just “puddled along” as he and his family figured out just how to yield a good, quality product. But with some time, attention, direction, and the help of a consultant, the Bowns compost operation started to take off.
The addition of biologicals has been key to speeding up the compost-making process and increasing product. What typically takes 16-20 weeks is reduced to just 10-12 weeks when beneficial bugs are added to the raw materials. Trent started out turning the compost as part of his weekly chore schedule; however, increased demand and a growing amount of work has created a new job opportunity, and Trent has hired someone to turn and manage the compost piles. During the first couple weeks, the compost pile is turned regularly – about twice per week, and during the later stages, it is turned at least once every 10 days.
And the final product has become quite popular in the Gunnison Valley. Locals can come pick up truckloads to spread on their vegetable gardens in the spring and summer, and on their grass in the fall. Last year, Harward Farms was in the market for over 4,000 tons of the Bown’s compost. In fact, last year’s demand was so high that the Bowns had to turn people away. As interest increases, Trent is considering taking on acceptable waste from the surrounding area. The waste from horses at a nearby prison might be an option in the coming years as the Bowns work to keep up with the demand of local community members and local farms.