Friday, November 7, 2008

CowPots™: Molded Manure


If you haven’t yet heard of them, CowPots™ are made from 100% Cow-Poo that is molded into plant pots for seedlings. They are about as organic as one can get and, unlike peat pots, completely renewable. (Insert feed into front of cow, raw material for pots exits at rear end.)
When I spoke to inventor/dairy farmer Matt Freund at the Garden Writers symposium, I was beside myself with excitement as I listened to his story, because our little corner of New Jersey has lost nearly all of its dairy farms to housing developments.
My passion for this product is on three levels. The first is that I love cows and Matt and his brother Ben have found a way to generate another income stream that can keep their small farm profitable. I still mourn the loss of the farm next door to me to a housing development in the 1980s. I had lived on that farm for a while as a child and, even after mom bought her own lot and built a small house with the help of Grandpa and my uncles, I still went down to help herd the cows into the barn. When they dynamited the barn and moved in the bulldozers I cried for days.
Second, the Freunds have managed to produce a closed, self-sustaining system in which the methane produced by the manure is collected and used to heat the farmhouse and some farm buildings, as well as to "cook" the manure. (To read the whole story, click http://www.cowpots.com/history.html). The heating process separates it into solids and liquid. The liquid is returned to the fields to fertilize forage for the cows, and the fibrous composted solids are used to manufacture the plant pots. At the same time they are making something that’s good for your garden, they are reducing the nutrient load on their farm --- important for maintaining a healthy farm and clean water --- and lowering their dependence on fossil fuels.
And third, because CowPots™ break down quickly once they are planted in the garden (3 – 4 weeks), there’s nothing for us to recycle. Yet, they are sturdy enough to last up to 12 weeks before they go into the ground. Once the manure pot gets wet, it naturally fertilizes the seedlings, although it may be necessary to supplement as you would with any pot. CowPots™ come in 3” and 4” sizes, so seedlings can stay in the same pot until they are ready to be set out.
My overly sensitive nose detected absolutely no odor to my samples, but my cat and dogs seemed exceptionally interested in them for a short time. However, the novelty quickly passed.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until spring to try them out, but I have the perfect candidates: Cherokee Purple tomato and Galeux d’Eysines squash.
The Freunds recently struck a deal with The Liquid Fence Company® to market and distribute their product so that they could get back to doing what they do best. There are many of us who still appreciate small farmers. May they live long and prosper.

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