A Day in the Life of a Cow Crap Cultivator
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because taking a lot of crap just suddenly got much easier.
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
East Canaan, Connecticut
I was just rushing through a cup of coffee while sitting at the kitchen table in my farmhouse. Out in the farmyard, we were hauling a tower of empty buckets on a return trip from feeding the baby calves. It’s about 7 a.m., and I’m going to head out to start feeding cows. In the few minutes while I’m waiting for the mixer wagon that we use to mix our cows’ feed to fill with grain, I usually skim through my news feed and will probably post a picture to Instagram.
It’s been nearly two years since I came back to my family’s dairy farm, and I’m still in awe that I decided to turn in my heels and office chair for muck boots and the driver’s seat of a payloader. And right now, I’ll be alternating between the payloader, which has a bucket that can pick up 2,500 pounds in one scoop, and the 1968 John Deere tractor, loading, mixing and dispensing fresh feed to our 300 cows. For the next two hours.
It was actually 10 years ago this October that we hosted Mike Rowe on our farm to film an episode of Dirty Jobs. He spent the day taking on every job we handed him: moving the poo, separating the poo, pumping the poo, composting the poo and eventually forming the poo into one of our CowPots. That 30-minute episode gave us a crazy idea: sell pots made from poo. Today, our factory is running from 6:30 a.m. through midnight, forming, baking, stacking, boxing and shipping out CowPots all across the country.
Yesterday a seventh-grade class showed up for a farm tour. When the tour started, I was surrounded by a group of preteens adjusting to all of this, pinching their noses and screaming, “It stinks!”
Over the next 90 minutes, though, we talked about nutrition, recycling, animal care and sustainability. And no farm visit is complete without stopping by the CowPots factory. Initially grossed out at the thought of touching cow poop, this group of middle-school students had come full circle in an hour, actually appreciating that this pot is recycled, renewable, is an alternative to plastic and “doesn’t even stink.”
Before they got back on the bus, we popped into the maternity pen and were greeted by our newest arrival, a newborn just a few minutes old! The mom was licking the newborn clean. But I was recently asked if farming is different today from 20 years ago. Well, when my dad and uncle returned to this farm, their job description required they care for the cows, grow the crops and produce a nutritious and safe food product 365 days a year.
Back then, being a dairy farmer didn’t require marketing. Today, the average person is three generations removed from agricultural production and has lots of choices and sensitivities that weren’t so widely held back then. So for me to continue this family business as a third-generation farmer, I need to engage with anyone who eats, and that includes seventh-grade students. The cool thing is I get to see firsthand how food is produced, and with that comes a responsibility to share that process with consumers. And my generation of farmers is getting online and sharing our stories and, for me, touting the benefits of cow poop.