From fundraising to fertilizing

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Inspired by a book she read at age 11, Cynthia Rossi knew she was destined to raise llamas.


Twenty-two years after purchasing Tara Hill Farm, Rossi would not have guessed a by-product of her dream would benefit Citizens Library in Washington.


The Friends of Citizens Library, a group dedicated to raising money for the public library, came up with an unusual, but successful, fundraiser, selling buckets of llama compost cultivated from Rossi’s farm.


The “llama beans,” as gardeners affectionately call the manure, are porous, non-acidic and texturize the soil like no other organic fertilizer.


Rossi proposed the idea to sell the miracle manure to Dianne Rigby, former president of the friends, and the group formulated plans for the drive in April “when the weather was about to change and everybody was thinking about gardening.”


The compost-filled buckets were instantly emptied off the library shelves in the last few weeks, raising more than $700.


“It just took off,” Rossi said. “Every bucket that went to Citizens (Library) was gone.” As a longtime member of the Friends, Rossi is thrilled with the fundraiser’s lucrative results.


In years past, the organization brainstormed fundraisers to refurnish the library, provide computer-based services, revamp the public address system and fund other library-related activities. The funds raised will exceed $100,000 in the past two years. These updates are made possible by drives similar, but not quite as unique as, Rossi’s llama-dropping retail idea.


The compost, comprised of llama manure and other natural products, sold out because of an overwhelming demand.


Uncomposted material, or pure manure will remain on sale throughout the summer at $8 for a three-gallon pail and $15 for a five-gallon pail.


Rossi lauded the benefits of the high-quality compost, which she mixes from straw, a sprinkle of wood shavings and pellets of manure in an isolated pasture at her farm.


“The product had virtually no odor,” Rossi said. “It’s a great, easy, and affordable way to add nutrients to the garden.”


For health considerations, Rossi recommends spreading composted material on edible plants and uncomposted material on trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials.


Originally, Rossi would provide the raw manure to neighbors and friends who knew of the composting benefits but the process of gathering the pellets from pastures became a burden. When Rossi began experiencing back and shoulder pain she sought another option.


Rossi began inquiring about a vacuum with the suction power to collect llama pellets. The search ended with a call to the Tennant Co., a cleaning equipment producer based in Britain.


Rossi now rides a Tennant ALTV 4300 around her pasture, depositing pellets in two vacuum bags called “hoppers.”


“I call it my new British ride,” Rossi said.


Elizabeth Cumrine, Citizens Library president, is pleased to continue the initiative, with hopes the sale will last into the fall.


“Since the purpose of the Friends is to raise money for and public awareness of our library, we are ever so grateful to Cynthia Rossi and her llamas,” Cumrine said. “The innovative campaign had succeeded in providing both.”


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