When life (or 9,000 cows) gives you manure... add some straw and make compost!
Arizona dairy farmers are always looking for ways to recycle and conserve resources. Many are able to use their manure on crops to help feed their cows. Which brings the cycle of dairy farming full circle. The cows eat the crops, they make milk and waste, the milk goes into dairy products and the waste goes back to the crops.
Jason Van Der Toorn of Boschma Farms and Diversified Organics has been able to use manure from his dairy and 2 surrounding dairies to make compost. His cows are able to make milk for dairy products and their waste goes to grow crops that humans eat, like broccoli and carrots.
"The reason manure or compost is so important, especially in Arizona, is because it provides not only critical nutrients but various essential organic matter to the soil," says Van Der Toorn. The salt in our soil holds on to those nutrients and makes it difficult for plants to get them. What our compost has is humic acid which helps the salt release the nutrients and offers the crops a better environment to grow in.
Different crops take and return different nutrients when they are grown. "The farmers here in Arizona are really smart, they've been working the ground so long they know if they are short on nutrients just by watching their crops grow. It sounds complicated but it isn't, it's all just a math formula. They won't give their crops something they don't need and they also won't short their crops either." Says Jason.