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Dairy cow pens to Walmart shelves

Madison Anderson for Progressive Forage Published on 31 December 2019
Cowgirl Compost

While most cowgirls spend their time on horseback working cattle and helping out around the ranch, this is not where you will likely find Jennifer Cummins.

Though she may be wearing a cowgirl hat, Cummins, an attorney and small business owner, is more probably found operating her company, Cowgirl Compost LLC.

Jennifer and Trent CumminsGrowing up on her family’s dairy in Twin Falls, Idaho, Cummins developed a passion for cattle, agriculture and hard work. These lent her the background and confidence to take a risk and begin her own business, composting dairy manure.

Born out of necessity after the family dairy relocated to Buhl, Idaho, Cowgirl offered a solution to a lack of land space to spread manure and increase environmental sustainability.

“We had really great compost, and it had all the nutrients that the cows eat. Their diet is superior to a lot of other feeding operations, and the other compost products that I was seeing in stores was not the same quality as what we had on the farm. So I figured why not try to connect the two and see how customers like it,” Cummins says.

As manure management is vital to the health and function of a dairy, Cummins saw an opportunity to keep things clean and manage waste sustainably. Combined with her husband’s involvement and knowledge in packaging operations, the idea for Cowgirl Compost
was born.

In 2013, when the business was established, Cummins was only using manure from her parents’ dairy, but much to her excitement, they have grown since. Now purchasing manure from a variety of family-owned dairies in Idaho’s Magic Valley, they are proud to support other small, local businesses.

The manure, sourced from open lot and freestall facilities, is placed in open air rows, where it stays for approximately nine months. Using specialized equipment, the manure is rotated, which allows for interaction with oxygen, allowing molecular processes to break down any materials in the manure.

“All the weed seeds and pathogens are cooked out because the temperature inside the piles is several hundred degrees. What is left over is a really wonderful soil amendment with all the nutrients the cows ate but without the pathogens and weed seeds,” Cummins says.

Once the composting process has been completed, the compost is transported to Cowgirl’s facility in Hammett, Idaho. Here, the product is packaged into individual 1-cubic- foot or 1 ½-cubic-foot bags, loaded onto pallets and shipped to retailers across Idaho.

Compost bagged and loaded on the truck ready for transportCurrently, Cowgirl Compost products, including organic compost blend, topsoil and soil conditioner, can be purchased at any Idaho Lowe’s Home Improvement location. But not to worry, if there is no Lowe’s nearby, Cowgirl products will soon be available at Walmart.

After stumbling upon an open call by Walmart for American-made products, Cummins decided to give it a shot and submit Cowgirl’s information for consideration. Having few expectations and being unsure if Walmart was looking for soil amendments, Cummins was elated when she received an invitation to attend the open call.

“We met with a buyer, and it could not have gone any better. We stood up from the meeting and shook hands, and they were excited to have us there. Of course, we were just out of our minds with excitement. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were,” Cummins says.

Cummins attributes this recent success and the continued growth and flourishment of Cowgirl Compost to her and her husband’s connection to the source of their products. Both being raised on farms, their combined knowledge and experiences allows them to discern what is and is not a good raw product.

“The ability to know that our manure is coming from dairies where cows are treated well, eat well and have a nice place to live allows us to feel comfortable putting the product in our bags,” says Cummins.

Being able to discern good product from bad permits confidence that the contents of Cowgirl Compost’s bags are superior to similar products on the market. Free from byproducts and fillers, dairy cow compost offers superior strength and benefit that all soils need to thrive.

“We always keep our product at the forefront of our mind. We are making decisions based on quality, not quantity, and not necessarily on cost. Of course, cost is a big factor, but our number one goal is quality,” says Cummins.

While the high quality of Cowgirl’s product is what maintains continued customer satisfaction, Cummins is equally concerned with the welfare of her employees and business partners. As the success of the business is dependent on those who allow it to function, she makes decisions based on what will have the biggest and best impacts on not only her and her husband’s lives, but also those who work with them.

The mindset that giving up is not an option is a constant motivator for Cummins. With Cummins making the day-to-day decisions and predominately running the business, it not only allows Cowgirl Compost to be certified woman-owned by the Small Business Administration, but also to be operated by the values Cummins considers formative to who she is and strives to be.

Jennifer Cummins

She attributes her focus and success to the values she has learned by being a part of the agriculture industry. The family-oriented, hardworking people she and her husband grew up around and learned from inspire them to operate Cowgirl Compost with those same values.

Next time the lawn and garden need a little pick-me-up, look no further than the clear bag with a girl in the cowboy hat on the front. Jennifer, her husband, everyone at Cowgirl Compost and dairy producers across Idaho will thank you for it.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Cowgirl Compost, a certified, woman-owned small business, produces and markets all-natural, dairy-manure-based compost products to retailers in Idaho.

PHOTO 2: Cummins and her husband, Trent, are thrilled about the outcome of their attendance at Walmart’s recent open call for new products and are looking forward to seeing Cowgirl Compost products in Walmart stores soon.

PHOTO 3: Once the dairy manure has undergone the composting process, the compost is bagged and loaded onto trucks for transport at Cowgirl Compost’s facility, pictured here, in Hammett, Idaho.

PHOTO 4: Cummins, pictured here in 1992 at the Twin Falls County Fair with her first cow, “Lizzie,” credits the inspiration for Cowgirl Compost to growing up on her family’s dairy farm. Photos provided by Jennifer Cummins.

For more information, visit Cowgirl Compost LLC.

Madison Anderson was a 2019 Progressive Forage intern.

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