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Farmer Says Manure Is Most Misunderstood Natural Resource

Long-time farmer Gene Logsdon has been thinking about manure a lot. In fact, he says it is our most misunderstood natural resource.

Longson wants us to go back to the days of grazing animals and letting them fertilize the land for more crops, because, he argues, it’s the pitchfork-wielding farmer that takes animal waste and turns it into the food that sustains us.

Finding ways to turn all our waste into fertilizer is crucial to our survival, says Logsdon, and he sees a future when companies might actually pick up refuse from homes and sell it to farmers.

We are revisiting our conversation with Logsdon about his book “Holy Sh**,” and our follow-up with Cornell professor of soil chemistry Murray McBride, who reminded us that especially when it comes to human waste, there are still some serious hurdles to be overcome, because human waste can retain medicines, and even radioactivity from medical treatment.


  • Gene Logsdon, farmer, writer and author of “Holy Sh** : Managing Manure to Save Mankind.” His latest book is, “A Sanctuary Of Trees: Beechnuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions.” He also writes the blog, “The Contrary Farmer
  • Murray P. McBride, professor of crop and soil sciences, college of agricultural and life sciences, Cornell University


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  • Darreesicher

    8 million tons of sewage sludge is spread on farms, playgrounds, parks and sold as bagged ‘ fertilizer’ in america yet the EPA only requires testing for 9 elements and 1 bacteria. This is not just the happy, healthy human turd – it’s everything that goes down the drain of homes, hospitals, businesses and industry. Real science that looks at soil and water contamination, plant uptake and community health impacts are joining citizens around the country who realize the need to re-evaluate and regulate this way of disposing of our modern waste on the land that grows our food.

    Darree sicher
    United sludge free alliance

  • J Frog

    In honor of the story today…the classic “Pick that Up!” scene from “Deadmen Don’t Wear Plaid”


  • MLC

    I usually appreciate your balanced interviewing, but I feel you should have addressed animal treatment and environmental concerns with the used of animal manure

    1) Animal produced manure, for the most part, comes from confined animal production where animals are held close together and treated poorly.  Often, chickens raised in close quarters go blind from the urine they are living on.  So I don’t see it as romantic as the animals prancing on its newly laid litter.

    2) When comparing the use of commerical versus animal manure, there are more issues than just cost.  Often, because the exact amount of nutrients in animal manure is unknown, farmers over fertilize to make sure they are getting the nutrients (its cheap enough compared to commercial).  The excess nutrients run off and lead to river and stream pollution.  If a farmer used commercial fertilizer, he could be sure how much nutrients are put on the field without having to over-fertilize.

  • Sarah

    Portland, Oregon has been selling (or giving, not sure) municipal waste water solids to a ranch in Eastern Oregon for years. Although not exactly direct human manure, it’s pretty close.

  • hum_dinger

    Gene used to work in wastewater industry.

    Some compunds found in sludge also found in nature, but not to the extreme quantities that are found in sewage sludge -gene is an ardent supporter of spreading extreme concentrations of arsnic mercury lead radionuclides chromium (erin brokovich anyone).

    Gene supports growing your food in toxic waste -afterall, its good for you……

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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