2014: The year of thinking differently

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Earlier this week, I found myself utterly lacking spirit, Christmas or otherwise. Maybe it was the fact that we still don’t have a Farm Bill — more evidence that it may be the last of its kind, not that the industry has a clear plan for what a post-Farm Bill world would look like. Maybe it was reading about the looming changes to tax codes, both at federal and state levels, that aren’t falling producers’ way. Maybe it was all the doom and gloom talk about the farmland bubble bursting, or the estrogenic well water in northeastern Wisconsin that’s being blamed on dairying.

Actually, I was handling all of that just fine until the news of animal abuse at the Wiese Brothers Farm broke. Good grief. Was 2013 fated to be a tough year for dairy?

Then I read about the latest product from Back to the Roots, the California-based startup that made a name for itself by turning recycled coffee grounds into an urban farming sensation — at-home mushroom growing kits. Back to the Roots now was offering the AquaFarm, a self-sustaining ecosystem/fish tank in which the plants grown on top grow thanks to the nitrates from the betta fish’s water. What a great way to teach kids about closed-loop, sustainable food production and get all the basil my husband needs to make his amazing spaghetti sauce. I ordered one for my girls for Christmas.

Then I read a news release about the $13 million in grants being awarded to agriculture startups by the U.S. Agency for International Development, including SunDanzer's new Sustainable Milk for Africa through Refrigeration Technology (SMART), a solar-powered refrigerator that chills milk from farms immediately and keeps it cold while it's en route to milk collection centers. Who needs the Eau Claire rule when you’ve got solar-powered refrigeration technology?

Somewhere along the line, I started to feel better about the uncertainty facing the industry. After all, the next big thing in dairying is just one idea away. And if necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps 2014 will prove to be a great launching pad for a special breed of dairy ingenuity.



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