Self-described manure aficionado Brent Lamour draws on his long history in horses, cattle, hay and vegetable farming. He grew up in Putnam County, N.Y., and now lives just 35 miles north. He has watched the rural character of the area change.
"Fewer horse owners are farmers, he says. "Their focus is on recreation, competing, breeding. Horse people have good intentions but huge piles [of manure] are a misplaced resource."
The loss of land for hay fields on which to spread manure and the pressure he saw building between horse people and non-horse neighbors inspired Lamour to find a solution. He and partner Shawn Goff started Salem Organic Soils (SOS) in 1986, with a twist: Their patented process uses tannins (plant extracts) to convert shavings-based horse manure into a high-grade coffee-colored mulch called Sweet Peet.
While it's not intended as a soil amendment, the lime added in the conversion process helps counter low soil pH caused by acid rain across the U.S. Sweet Peet's rich, earthy quality was featured on "Martha Stewart Living." Quality control is important to the product: Lamour advises his manure suppliers against using pesticide fly sprays on horses where it can drift down onto hay and bedding. The final phase in mulch production sifts out any foreign objects such as rocks picked out of horses' feet in their stalls, or even the errant horseshoe.
The original Sweet Peet base in Wingdale, N.Y., churns 300,000 cubic yards of manure with shavings into 100,000 cubic yards of mulch annually. The inventory always sells out.
Expanding and licensing to keep up with demand, SOS now operates in New York, Connecticut and Ohio, and is eyeing Ocala, Fla., with its 100,000 horses. A Canadian patent is pending.
People are welcome to drop off their manure, but most comes in from contracted containers or truckers. Manure from the Manhattan and Queens mounted police horses arrives via garbage trucks.
For more information on Sweet Peet, visit www.sweetpeet.com.
Manure management is an issue for every home horsekeeper. The June 2005 issue of Practical Horseman magazine provides expert advice on storing, composting, and disposing of manure.