How Cow Manure Helps Grow a Family Business
Amanda Freund, a Connecticut dairy farmer, helped make manure marketable for her family. And it’s entirely possible you or your neighbor’s garden has benefited from it.
The business is CowPots, a biodegradable pot for plants made from the fiber of cow manure. Freund’s father began experimenting with cow manure in the late 1990s to develop a manure-based product that could be sent to places where the nutrients in the cow poo could benefit the soil.
“He started with the toaster oven in our farmhouse kitchen to secondhand ovens in the farm shop,” Freund said. “He mixed up experimental batches, built forms to press pots using our cows’ manure and then baked them dry.”
This odorless product has grown in popularity in recent years, and Freund has been at the helm of its distribution and marketing strategy from the beginning.
Here, she tells us a little bit about her work life and personal life—which, on a family farm, can be one and the same.
Amanda Freund, photo courtesy of Cabot Creamery Cooperative
How did you get involved with CowPots?
My dad’s poo pot project was ready for a person to take on the role of sales and marketing. I filled up the family minivan with cases of CowPots and started driving around the tri-state area making sales calls. We were met with some skepticism and often laughter, as people tried to understand why we would be making a pot out of poo. But here we are, all these years later, still manufacturing a biodegradable, plantable pot made from our cows' composted manure. Diversifying our dairy business in this way has been important both as a secondary income stream and allowing us to meet our sustainability goal to be better stewards of our farmland. We currently form 12 different sizes of pots as well as offer custom-designed products and ship product all over the country, into Canada and the United Kingdom. In addition to adding value to our dairy farm’s byproduct, we offer gardeners a 100 percent renewable and recycled alternative to plastic and peat pots.
What is your earliest memory of dairy?
I did not have Nintendo growing up (or a trampoline or cool snacks), but I discovered my unique offering as a farm kid early on. I was the only one in our class with a giant pyramid of hay bales stacked precisely in a hay mow, perfect for climbing. I remember this being our frequent after-school destination, and I got to be a proud farm kid.
What gets you most excited about dairy?
I'm most excited about reconnecting people with food. My favorite days on the farm are when we’re hosting visitors for a farm tour and we get to introduce them to all the pieces that make our farm a sustainable, modern and diversified business.
What’s something people don’t know about your job?
I go to work each day with my mom, dad, two uncles and my brother. It’s a family affair every day.
What is your greatest fear?
Running out of peanut butter. Second greatest fear? Running out of milk for after I’ve eaten a spoonful of peanut butter.
Which living person do you most admire?
My mom. She met the farmer’s son when she got a job working at Freund’s Farm between her sophomore and junior year of college. After having her second baby, she decided to start her own farm business. Over the past 30 years she has expanded what used to be a roadside corn stand into a two-story farm market, bakery, garden center and catering business. She did this all while raising four children. She was preparing farm-to-table meals before it was the cool thing to do. She is proud and passionate, and I don’t doubt my ability to be a successful farming woman because of her.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Prudence. What reasonable person would look at a cow pie and decide to spend over a decade prototyping poo into a pot? Sometimes you must throw caution to the wind. Our farm family took some big risks as we ventured into manufacturing. As a result, we can support our farm business by making a completely renewable, recycled alternative to plastic and peat for growers and gardeners while making our farm a better place.