One of the stories told in the Acton’s forthcoming documentary, “The Call of the Entrepreneur,” (trailer available here) is that of Brad Morgan, a Michigan dairy farmer, who bucked the odds and the naysayers and turned the problem posed by the disposal of his herd’s manure into a profitable business venture.
His innovative solution to manure disposal, turning it into high quality compost for a variety of purposes, led to the formation of Morgan Composting in 1996, and more than ten years later the business is still going strong.
Reflecting on the role of the entrepreneur in the market economy, Acton president Rev. Robert A. Sirico says, “Sometimes they’re the most common resources that we walk over, that we ignore, that we even are perhaps repulsed by, that become the source of wealth, the source of jobs, the source of prosperity. I mean this is an incredible institution.”
Perhaps no “resource” illustrates this reality better than manure. Brad Morgan turned the waste from cows into a valuable commodity. And now researchers and government officials are following Morgan’s lead.
Wendy Powers, a professor of agriculture at Michigan State University, says, “We really need to think outside the box on what uses for manure are.” Brad Morgan thought outside the box and Morgan Composting now offers a full line of products.
The Associated Press report says that “fiber from processed and sterilized cow manure could take the place of sawdust in making fiberboard, which is used to make everything from furniture to flooring to store shelves.”
“Farmers are having to put more and more money into dealing with manure,” said Tim Zauche, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. “This is a huge cost to farmers.” A dairy farm can spend $200 per cow per year to handle its manure, Zauche said.
But looking at manure as a resource to be managed rather than waste to be disposed of is the key difference in perspective. That’s what Powers calls thinking “outside the box.”