He's Full of It
By Jim Wood
Two years ago, middle-aged Teddy Stray was fed up with the corporate life. “I was tired of the constant traveling,” he recalls. “I wanted to stay closer to home; I wanted meaning in my life.” Fortunately, the Bayonne, New Jersey, native was married to the farmer’s daughter. That’s right, his wife’s father owned a West Marin dairy farm. “A lot of guys take a lot of crap from their fathers-in-law,” he says. “But I wanted to buy mine.”
So Stray — let’s call him Teddy — proposed the idea to his wife’s dad, the legendary cattle rancher Bob Giacomini, of buying and bagging cow manure. “At first,” says Teddy, “Bob thought I was wacko.” Now the two of them, along with all of their extended family, are delighted with the success of Bob’s Best Cow Manure.
For several years, Giacomini had been composting and recycling — even sharing with fellow ranchers — the manure generated by his contented cows on the Giacomini Ranch. Then comes Teddy, with his concept to bag then sell the compost through local nurseries to Marin’s many backyard gardeners. And like all retail fertilizers, Bob’s Best is ranch-aged for months, then carefully tested for heavy metals, bacteria, E.coli, salmonella and toxic wastes.
Now back to the fun stuff: A key component of the Bob’s Best marketing campaign — and it’s printed on every bag — is the tagline: “Don’t Let Anyone Else Give You Any Crap.”
However, Teddy — president and CEO of Point Reyes Compost — is hardly giving it away. At Whole Foods, Sloat, Mollie Stone’s, Goodman’s Lumber, Fairfax Hardware, Sunnyside in San Anselmo and Green Jeans Nursery in Mill Valley, a one-cubic-foot bag of Bob’s Best sells for up to $6.99. “That stuff is great,” says Kevin Sadlier, owner of Green Jeans. “According to our customers, it really works.”
“We also have a higher-end product,” Teddy reports. “It’s a blend of cow and horse manure called ‘Double Doody.’ It sells for up to $8.99 a bag.” All of which leads to Point Reyes Compost’s proud motto: “Purveyors of Premium Poop.” Moreover, each container of Bob’s Best is stamped with the assurance: “This Bag Is Full of Crap.”
Make no mistake, however. Point Reyes Compost is serious about what it does. “Our bags also carry an OMRI certification,” Teddy says. “This signifies our products have been approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute, an Oregon agricultural watchdog group, and this means they come from organic sources and can be used to grow organic fruits and vegetables as well as healthy shrubs and flowers.”
Teddy is also quick to point out the very bag containing his compost is 100 percent recyclable. “Our entire operation is green and sustainable,” he continues. “Think about it: Our product is produced naturally and locally. We bag it on site, then deliver it to local nurseries, where it is sold to locals and used locally.” Teddy, who was previously a VP for global sales at an enterprise owned by Warren Buffett, readily admits he has never in his life had so much fun — and satisfaction — while running a business. “You might say,” he concludes, “I’m closing the loop on poop.”