What's a farm without poop, after all? Not much at all. Manure is what closes the loop, completes the cycle. We all need to compost in order to have a truly sustainable - or as Highfields Center for Composting Executive Director Tom Gilbert put it in a workshop last week, regenerative - farm ecosystem. And as contrary farmer Gene Lodgson answered in an interview when asked how important manure is to a farm, "On a scale of one to ten, with ten at the top, I'd give manure an eleven."
If you're not composting, you should start right now. Grab a bowl and start putting your food scraps in it. Go throw it in a pile outside. Add bedding - straw, hay, shredded newspaper, whatever - and manure from your animals. You can definitely get fancy about it - and Highfields has a ton of worksheets on their website to calculate proper ratios and figure out how to set up larger-scale composting systems properly. But as a general rule of thumb, you want three or four (more is better) parts of carbon-based compost, like straw, hay, leaves, or cardboard, to one part nitrogen - manure.
If you have laying hens, feed them your food scraps. Use the deep litter method to essentially create a compost pile right under their feet. This is what we do. In the spring, we clean out the entire coop and add it to our compost pile, allowing it to compost for a few more months.
How do you compost? What methods have you found to work best for your farm?