Lew Bauman and Tim Schneider are up to their knees in manure … and they love it.
The brothers-in-law own a company called Nincompoop.
“The name comes from, nitrogen-in-composting-poop,” said Schneider. “Our slogan is ‘We want to poop in your garden.’”
The company sells a line of mulches designed to look like hemlock or cedar but with the benefits of feeding the soil instead of depleting the soil as most wood-based mulches do.
“Wood tends to wick nutrients and water out of the garden before it gives it back, which makes it nutrient zero. Whereas our product begins to feed your garden the moment you put it down,” Schneider explained.
It’s designed to look and do everything a mulch does but it has no nutrient value for flowers – it’s nutrient rich for the earth, he added.
“Our theory is if you have healthy earth you will have healthy flowers, no need to fertilize. That’s done with worms.”
The key to the company’s success is using a nutrient mixture and having the worms to do all the dirty work.
“Nature dictates clearly if there is a food source things will flourish,” said Schneider. “We are providing a huge amount of food for worms, and microbiology which encourages worms to produce nitrogen in the soil.”
Generally when people are gardening they dig in their compost and either mulch, weed or use fertilizers and then plant.
“With our product you don’t have to do anything, just put down mulch because it will basically till and aerate the soil, that’s what the worms do,” said Bauman.
Nincompoop launched in 2009 and has already acquired an impressive number of customers, including the cities of Kitchener and Brampton, Grand River Raceway, Grobe Nursery in Breslau, Landscape Plus and E.S. Hoffer and Son Limited in Elmira.
“People are slowly catching on to the benefits of using this kind of mulch as opposed to how they have been doing it in the past,” said Bauman.
The company has already doubled it sales from last year said Bauman. “Not bad considering we are only halfway through this season.”
The company came about when Schneider and his nephew, Andrew Schneider, were both off work on sick leave and were “licking their wounds,” when Andrew asked his uncle ‘how is it that your wife’s flowers are always the biggest on the block.’
“I showed him my secret concoction of horse and poultry manure and Andrew suggested we try to sell it,” said Schneider. “I thought ‘why not?’ Ultimately we have all been dealing with horse s–t all our lives why not put it in a bag and sell it.”
With the help of Bauman, a dairy farmer, the three men began to experiment on Bauman’s farm looking for the right mix to sell.
Since manure can be very weedy, the three men came up with the right combination that is wood and weed-free and prevents other weeds from taking root as well.
“We guarantee no weeds in our product, unlike other suppliers,” said Schneider. “Most manure used is from bovine, which is the weediest and takes the longest to cure and is very wet, where as horse and poultry in the proper proportions has a lot more nutrients and fiber.”
With the help of the Waterloo Wellington Community Futures Development Corporation the men received a loan and began selling.
“Our biggest challenge is the moisture of the product, it has a shelf life of about two weeks before it gains an odor,” said Schneider. “When people see it they say hey it just looks like other mulch but when you think manure you think of the smell, but this doesn’t smell like manure, it has the smell of compost.”
Selling through the internet and at spring home and garden shows, including the Stratford garden show and the Canada Blooms show, business began to pick up.
“Our concept is direct-to-application, we make it on the Monday to be used the following weekend, it’s a constant turnover,” said Schneider. “A few nurseries in the area and in Greater Toronto jumped on it right away and began purchasing the product.”
This season the company produced three new products: a lawn top dressing, an earth-soil blend and straight compost.
Nincompoop is managed out of Schneider’s Waterloo home and has a yard at a Maryhill farm. They recommend that customers call ahead to make an appointment if they plan to come to the farm.