Local News

Organic Dirt Turns Into Cash Crop For Former Dairy Farmer

Posted October 24, 2001

— After all the rides are gone and the animals have been taken back to the farm, most of us forget about the State Fair. One man actually makes a living from recycling what is left behind in the barns.

"This is the third year that we have been hauling the animal bedding from the State Fair," says Dean Brooks. "For the most part, a lot of the bedding actually from the State Fair was going to the landfill, because they were allowing trash and everything else to be mixed in it, and it was just being sent to the landfill."

That was before Brooks got involved. His company is one of the largest private firms of its type in the state.

Brooks takes waste, like egg shells and food industry scraps, and mixes it with leaves, sawdust and the bedding from the State Fairs barns. The result, he says, is black gold.

"Basically, it's kind of like a salad," explains the former dairy farmer. "You get a lot of different ingredients and every small amount adds to your finished product."

Like many other dairy farmers, Brooks just could not keep up with falling prices and soaring costs. That is when he started farming dirt.

"We finally sold our dairy cows in 1992 and we were into it full-time from then. It has kind of grown from there every year," he says.

Each week for four months, the mix of materials is turned in long rows.

"At that point, we will pick it up and put it in big curing piles and we hope to leave it there 10 months," he explains.

In a little over a year, what would have been filling up landfills is filling up planters and flower beds instead.

Brooks says that he supplies his dirt to the larger landscapers in Raleigh, Durham and Research Triangle Park.

Over a million and a half pounds of the beautiful, organic soil rolls off his site each week. In fact, some of the soil actually returns to the flower and animal beds at the fairgrounds, bringing the product full-circle.

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