October 22, 2014

Dairy Doo

gardeningHealthy food requires healthy soil. And, like a good recipe for a scrumptious meal, you need the right ingredients. If you’re a follower of this line of thinking, folks at a place called Morgan Composting in Sears, MI, have created a product called “Dairy Doo” that could help you cook up a heck of a meal from your garden.

Brad Morgan, CEO, and his father Dale took a byproduct of their large dairy farm and turned it into a thriving business by selling the waste from their cows. Dairy Doo, as you may have guessed, is composted cow manure that is used as a supplement by farmers, orchardists, greenhouse growers, lawn care companies, and others.

It is also starting to catch-on big with home gardeners.

I first started using Dairy Doo to bulk up my houseplant potting mix and the greenhouse mix I use for growing flower and vegetable seedlings. It gave everything a nice boost and can also be applied directly to the garden or lawn.

Morgan Composting also “builds” a potting mix with a variety of minerals that can be used for different growing situations. One of these mixes makes its way to Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, a large commercial growing operation in the Portage/Kalamazoo area. But custom blends are available for home gardeners, too. The folks at Morgan’s recommend that gardeners get a soil sample, which will help them come up with the perfect blend for a flower or vegetable garden. Of course, you can buy Dairy Doo in ready-to-use custom blends, such as their Outdoor Plant Mix 301 for fruit and vegetables.

Dairy Doo boosts healthy plants by improving the soil’s biology, says Brad Morgan. A biologically diverse soil fosters healthier plants, which means less disease and insect problems. If your plants stay healthy, you’ll use less fertilizer and pesticides, which is good news for you, the environment, and your pocket book.

The Morgans say the key to growing good crops is to provide an environment where plants can utilize nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorous and potash) as efficiently as possible. “There is more living below the earth than above,” Brad explains, and notes it is important to add to the biology of the soil by adding organic matter, such as Dairy Doo.

Older farming methods have diminished the soil’s nutrient value, he adds. The over-use of pesticides and fertilizers can kill the very microorganisms that help a plant use nutrients in the soil. Microscopic soil helpers, such as nematodes and bacteria, of which there are literally thousands in a handful of rich soil, can go a long way in rebuilding the soil.

Morgan also said farmers are catching on to the importance of healthy, biologically diverse soil, and he is trying to foster that understanding.

“We want to offer solutions – we want to be a solution company,” he says.

Morgan further explains that nitrogen easily leaches through the soil and into the aquifer, particularly with poor soils. In one study by MSU, 60 to 80 percent of the nitrogen used in an orchard leached through the soil. Dairy Doo helps stabilize the soil and gives something for the nitrogen and other fertilizers to latch onto. This is not only better for the environment, but makes sense economically.

The Morgan family understands economics. Before manufacturing Dairy Doo, they were a little miffed that it actually cost them to get rid of their cow manure. A farmer can only dump so much manure on their fields due to high levels of phosphorous. The rest has to be disposed of at a hefty cost, especially for bigger farming operations.

So, the Morgans came up with the idea of composting what turned out to be a very valuable commodity. They now tap into three different farming operations for their compost, and the demand for high quality compost grows by leaps and bounds each year, he says.

Dairy Doo is manufactured on the original Morgan dairy farm. The manure is placed in long “windrows,” where it can be turned by automated equipment until it becomes a viable product to bag and sell. This process, which once took a couple of years to achieve, according to Morgan, can now be completed in about 90 days.

A little bit can go a long way for both the home gardener and large-scale farmer (which currently makes up 94 percent of the Morgans’ business). A one-quarter-inch layer of Dairy Doo mixed into the top 4 to 6 inches is sufficient to amend the soil in your vegetable garden. Farmers who sell produce to farmers’ markets can expect to apply 1 to 2 yards per acre.

Some of the other growing mixes from Morgan Composting that come in different custom blends are Seed Starter 101, for starting plants; Potting Soil 201, for flowers; and Outdoor Plant Mix 301 for fruit and vegetable plants.

Dairy Doo and the customized mixes are offered in about 57 mom-and-pop retail stores, some of which are listed on—you guessed it—dairydoo.com!

-Neil Moran