Since my title on our hobby farm in Rhode Island’s Apple Valley is executive vice president/manure management, I know a thing or two about the production and distribution of raw material.

The work, honest and unpretentious, is far more pleasant than you might imagine; in fact, I see a magical aspect to it.  

Each spring, a truck from Allie’s feed store lumbers across our five acres with dozens of aromatic hay bales. And while I am no wizard, with the passage of time – voila – the hay turns into plump, savory tomatoes, glossy eggplant, and a year’s supply of pungent garlic.

Of course, there are intermediate steps of feeding the hay into our conversion machines – three miniature horses – and blending the result with our thick, black earth, enriched by many seasons of similar labor.

Our manure, like fine wine, comes in vintages, since it ages gracefully before use. This year we uncorked vintage 2018, next year’s will be 2019, and we’ll have to decide whether the 2020 will be tolerable when its time comes, given what the year has been like otherwise. 

  In case you didn’t know it, the manure world – yes, there is one – got some bad news recently. Because of COVID-19, the North American Manure Expo – yes, there is one – is cancelled for 2020.

The Expo, held annually in American and Canadian farming areas and originally scheduled for later this month in Ontario, provides education on all aspects of this invaluable product, including, as its schedule says, a field workshop on “Mooving Manure on Dairies.”

  As for the “live action field response” on how to handle a manure spill, count me out if this is part of the 2021 exposition.

In an annual contest, the Expo invites those in the manure industry – yes, there is one – to come up with business slogans. This has resulted in such entries as “You name the species – we’ve got the feces.” You can see why one expo official once said, “Good luck to all the contestants. I don’t know what you win, but whatever it is, it’s probably best not to let it hit the fan.”

Something you might not know is that manure has inspired a lot of wisdom and humility.

The actor Lee Marvin once noted, “Ah, stardom! They put your name on a star in the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard and you walk down and find a pile of dog manure on it. That’s the whole story, baby.”

Black entertainer and activist Eartha Kitt observed, “I have used all the manure that has been thrown on me as fertilizer to make me stronger.”  

         Sculptor Carl Andre, noting that progress is a mix of tradeoffs, said, “The automobile replaced the horse and buggy but you lost all of that nice manure.” 

Restaurateur and author Tom Douglas sagely opines that “Money is like manure; if you don’t spread it around nothing grows.”

Author D.H. Lawrence put his finger on the world’s interconnections when he observed, “The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.”

I’m partial to the opinion of author Barbara Kingsolver, who often writes about social justice and says, “If you’re standing in the manure pile, it’s somebody’s job to mention the stink.” Please forward immediately to staffers in the White House.

So there’s my take on a product that’s indispensable around here and provides a valuable lesson in general. No matter where you are, you can bet the farm that life will see to this: 

Manure happens.

Gerry Goldstein (gerryg76@verizon.net), an occasional contributor to What’s Up Newp and What’s Up R.I., is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.


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