by Melody Reynolds
As every animal farmer knows, manure can pile up quick. The daily cleaning of the barns and pastures of animal waste can become a problem if a plan is not put in place.
We have a dairy goat farm in Rhode Island. Here we make goat cheese and goat milk soaps to support our family and our love for goats.
When we first started our farm we carted all our manure and bedding out of the barnyard to a field. Before long the pile grew and was not very pleasing to the eye or nose.
In 2008 we became a certified dairy with the state of Rhode Island and needed to provide a plan for our manure removal or build a shelter to house the manure properly. The expense of building a shelter was way out of our budget. The building would need poured concrete flooring and a roof.
I asked many farmers who had such a building what to do when the building gets full. They always answered the same, “you move it to a field.” The entire process seemed to not make sense, since the end result would be the same.
As an experiment, we started bagging our compost material into contractor black bags. I had a sign made up offering it to the public for free. We passed out cards at our farmers markets and posted it on a few free gardener sites.
The sign simply states that we offer free compost material for your garden. If you take a bag please replace it with a new contractor bag.
The response was amazing. We had cars in and out shoving as much as they could into their Volvos and Minivans.
Occasionally, we would run out and my husband would joke that there would be “compost wars” in the driveway. People would come and not see any bags and shake their heads. Some would come to the gate and wave us over to ask “when will you have more?” We always replied, “Every day!” They would look surprised as if to say, “really the goats poop every day?”
We have been offering our free compost material for five years now. Faithfully we have customers who come all year, even in the winter. Only a few times we have been backed up in storms but I have a list of landscapers who make their own soil who will come and take a full load.
The contractor bags work well for us but, in the near future, we are hoping to be able to find some type of re-useable bag or bucket that people can return.
I was careful when posting the sign and advertising this product that it is compost material, NOT composted manure. I also listed what was used for bedding so people would not be expecting something different when they opened the bags.
The “take a bag, bring a bag” has worked great for us. The manure is removed from the farm at no cost to us. We have no flies and it doesn’t smell anywhere on the property.
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