Okay, bear with me here. I have a fabulous book recommendation, but it’s title is unconventional. I’m sure the author very much intended this to be the case, but as with many things that we really should be more comfortable with, we aren’t.
The book entitled, Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind, is all about manure. Gene Logsdon is a lifelong farmer, writer, and manure expert. The book gets to the heart of local farming. Food and Manure go hand in hand, when done well, and when they aren’t holding hands we all suffer. The local food movement has a great root in this area, and many people are learning more than they ever thought they would about where their food comes from, how it’s raised or grown and what goes into the cycle. I am 2 chapters away from finishing this book, and to show you how awesome I think it is, I only bought it last week, and do not find reading it conducive to knitting, which means I chose to read this instead of knitting. The book is very informative and also super amusing.
Some of our local farms are finding that combining livestock with field veggies is beneficial in many ways. Not only does it diversify the farm, spreading the risk of farming over more products, like if your tomatoes are hit with blight, your chickens will still be laying eggs, or your pigs will still be putting meat on the bone. Field grown veggies, in New England is a wild ride, with all the various possible reasons for loss. A cold snap in Spring after the buds have come on, can wipe out an Apple Crop, a summer of rain can destroy the squash crop, as the field gets too wet for the gourds and they rot on the vine, or cool rain for weeks at a time can usher in blight and make tomatoes scarce. Raising animals isn’t without challenges, and they can have their own set of concerns, but a well managed, heritage flock or herd, can weather a great many things.
Besides the diversification, a great asset to animals on the farm is manure. Manure is something we often take for granted, and that truth is the basis for Logsdon’s book. Waste should not be seen as, well, waste, or something to dispose of, but rather a bi-product/value added/ benefit of raising animals. If you raise animals you have the best source of fertility for your land. If you do so, in conjunction with field crops, you are maximizing that fertility.
Understanding how to manage manure will give you a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the farmers that are working so hard to keep their loop closed, by not buying in fertilizers for their fields. As a home gardener, it will give you practical insights into how you can utilize manure in your own little plot, and it might inspire you to raise some of your own manure creating critters, like chickens, or even better, rabbits.
If you are local and think raising rabbits for meat or manure would be beneficial for your garden, I’m teaching a class on how to get started with raising them for my local permaculture group on August 20 from 1-3. You can find out more here: Rabbit Husbandry 101
As for Logsdon’s book, Holy Shit: Managing Manure To Save Mankind you can buy it in either paperback, or for the kindle, on Amazon.
You can hear him in an interview with Robin Young on NHPR’s Here & Now.
If you live locally and want to support farms that are incorporating the principles of utilizing manure from their farms on their fields, check out Brookford Farm and New Roots Farm. I’ve had great conversations with the farmers at both farms about their philosophies and how they are using their animals to provide consumers with nutrient dense veggies, as well as humanely raised meat…all with the biproduct of manure at the center of their operation.