So I've been thinking about manure a bit (unfortunately). It started when I made my latest attempt to plant a vegetable garden. Last time I tried this, I wound up with a very tired daughter, 3 green beans, one tomato, and a gigantic cucumber. I wanted to do better, so sprang for the cattle manure at the garden shop.
On the way home, the stench in the car stimulated thoughts about whether the manure was really a good idea. Though putting manure in soil doesn't feel like putting a hamburger in your mouth, it isn't much different. You are supporting the meat industry when you pay for byproducts of the meat industry.
Which got me thinking: should vegans buy organic vegetables? It seems not, unless they're specifically marked "vegan" and grown in soil enriched by vegetable matter.
Which got me thinking some more: why not human manure? There's no shortage of it. In a vegan utopia, would that be the solution to the problem of soil enrichment?
This seemed really pie-in-the-sky, but then I went to a lecture about genetically modified food. Dr. Pia Vogel gave a very balanced presentation of the pros and cons of GM agriculture, industrial agriculture, and organic agriculture. A worry about organic agriculture is that farmers are starting to fertilize with human manure.
They are? The organic vegetables at Whole Foods are grown in our crap? Yes, she said that the city of Houston takes sewage and turns it into organic fertilizer pellets. Now, from what I can see, the stuff is not actually being used yet on organic farms. The Houston crap is spread on grazing land and used in landfills. But apparently there are companies that do sell human "biosolids" to organic farmers and gardeners like me.
Eww? Dr. Vogel said we should worry about human poop containing drugs, hormones, and antibiotics we consume. So: not actually such a good idea. But animals are fed all that stuff too, except the very small number raised organically. So using animal manure isn't smart either, unless you happen to have your own private cow.
Horrifyingly enough, it's starting to look like the perfectly ethical gardener would skip all the manure, and choose between low-yield vegetable compost and inorganic fertilizer. Or even make use of GM crops (some day available to gardeners?), which can be easier on the environment.
The head spins. Meanwhile, the garden has been planted. It turns out the stench was not from the cattle manure, but from composted cotton plants we had bought as well. All odors have now disappeared and we have shoots! This year I am bound and determined to have a vegetable garden that actually yields vegetables.
By any means necessary!