By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Robert Falco has had manure on his mind lately, along with other waste materials.
As the director of the Institute for Energy Resourcefulness, however, his thinking about all this waste is along the lines of resources.
Manure and dairy processing wastes, he said, plus minimal amounts of water could produce plentiful feedstocks for ethanol fuel manufacture and even more cattle feed, using minimal water resources. This kind of operation, he said, would be a great benefit to drought-stricken areas like Quay County.
He’s not alone in thinking this way.
Bob Hockaday, a former Los Alamos scientist and inventor now living in Tucumcari, have been exchanging similar ideas for a year, Falco said.
Thinking in this way, Falco and Hockaday found themselves in good company Friday and Saturday as a group of about 30 forward-looking individuals gathered for Empowering the Land, an event that encouraged exploring new ways of thinking about farming, manufacturing and doing business to benefit local economies.
One of the key words in the weekend event was “sustainability,” the idea that production should be designed to sustain itself by making minimal use of resources and by recycling as much as possible.
The Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation hosted the event, which was organized by local citizens, including Hockaday and Marie Nava, a Tucumcari area farmer.
The listeners, including speakers off the podium, heard local speakers and some, like Falco, who traveled from other locations in Texas and New Mexico to talk about sustainable practices and ways to help local communities become self-sustaining.
Local speakers included Tom and Mimi Sidwell, who operate a 7,000 acre ranch south of Tucumcari using different pasturing techniques that seem to help keep grass growing, Kelley Boney, who uses recycling on her goat farm near San Jon; and Hockaday, who is developing products that use solar energy and efficient technologies like fuel cells, which turn hydrogen-rich fuels into electricity and hot water.
Other ideas the speakers explored included soil health enhancement, water harvesting, and “soft skills” like networking, returning young people to rural communities and promotion of local communities, according to Nava.
The lead speaker was Mary Emeny, a community activist from Amarillo, who led the group in a brainstorming exercise to collect ideas on improving the Tucumcari area’s economy.
Falco’s presentation went into some detail about ways that manure can be broken down to produce large quantities of ethanol for motor fuels, and leave fiber byproducts that can be processed into more cattle feed, as well as other uses. The same, he said, is true of whey wastes from cheese manufacturing with the same basic byproducts.
Dairy operations and feedlots, that produced large quantities of manure in relatively small spaces, he said, could enhance net revenues significantly by making waste materials available for ethanol production, as could operations like the Southwest Cheese Factory near Clovis.
“We gained more knowledge about our land and how to help it, explored ways to involve our youth in our community and perhaps better utilize our resources,” Nava said. “Including all the experience-rich, underemployed people we have. We were encouraged to add value to our land based enterprises, think about ways to keep our dollars in our own community, and look toward the future with minds open to innovative, creative solutions.”