On April 23, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy announced the winners of the second annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, recognizing dairy farms and businesses that advance the industry’s commitment to healthy products, healthy communities and a healthy planet.
“The strength of the award winners’ stories illustrates why consumers can be confident about choosing their favorite dairy foods and beverages,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was founded by dairy producers. “These and thousands of other actions being taken every day — both large and small — contribute to the industry’s overall commitment to a healthy future for the next generation.”
An independent panel of judges — which included experts from academic institutions, government, dairy science organizations, nongovernmental organizations and media as well as environmental and dairy industry leaders — also assessed the potential for adoption by others as well as demonstrated learning, innovation and improvement.
Winners of the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability award include:
Petersen Dairy Farm, Appleton, Wis.
When the city of Appleton, Wis., decided to build a high school less than half of a mile from Petersen Dairy Farm, the Petersen family began exploring composting as a way to manage the dairy’s manure and associated odors. Now, compost is sold at the dairy by the 5-gallon pail or truckload, primarily to home gardeners. Visitors witness first-hand how their old newspapers are recycled as bedding for the cows, or mixed with manure, composted and ultimately returned to their gardens for use as mulch and to their yards for plant food. By turning their urban location into an asset, the Petersens prove that cows can be good neighbors.
Prairieland Dairy, Firth, Neb.
With the onset of urban encroachment, the Petersens — Lawrence, his recently deceased wife Rita and his sons Mark and Steve — began exploring composting as a valueadded method to manage the dairy’s manure. A creative partnership among four families put this dairy on the path to long-term prosperity and allows employees to focus on their specific talents. Sustainable design is reflected in every aspect of the facilities, which were built to be efficient and lowimpact while maximizing cow comfort. Automatic cooling, waste management and pest control systems are just part of the In addition to 1,600 cows and 600 acres, Prairieland is home to Prairieland Foods, a processing plant. solution. Prairieland Dairy also taps into the natural power of wind, gravity, and the geothermal properties of well water to reduce the use of energy, water and equipment, for savings estimated at more than $200,000.
The four families that founded Prairieland Dairy LLC in 2005 are committed to passing their farm to the next generation. Skyridge Farms, Sunnyside, Wash.
Dan DeGroot, owner of Skyridge Farms, has cultivated an organization that optimizes performance and preserves the environment. Since 2003, DeGroot has improved lighting, added occupancy sensors and installed a programmable logic control system. The management team can automatically control lighting, fans, and soaker and flush systems. By doing so, they maintain optimum performance, reduce costs and keep the herd comfortable. This upgrade alone yields a 20 percent energy savings annually across the five free-stall barns. With composting, Skyridge Farms harvests manure nutrients, provides quality bedding for the herd and eliminates 600 truckloads annually previously used to transport manure.
Dan DeGroot, owner of Skyridge Farms, systematically analyzed the full range of systems and processes required to create a truly sustainable dairy and made well-researched changes to meet his goals. Honorable mention went to McCarty Family Farms in Rexford, Kan. The McCartys have revitalized their rural northwestern Kansas community by providing more than 100 direct jobs, creating a need for additional housing and, in turn, increasing school enrollment. McCarty Family Farms’ unique “cow to cup” partnership with Dannon and the addition of an on-site processing plant has improved economic stability while aggressively reducing their environmental impact. The plant has yielded significant progress toward the dairy’s water-reduction goal. Approximately 59,400 gallons of raw milk from the three dairies is processed through an evaporator every day to remove excess water before being separated into cream and skim milk. Every drop of the water removed during the evaporation process — 39,000 gallons per day — is reused throughout the dairies.
Other winners include:
• Unilever, Henderson, Nev., winner of the Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability award.
• Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese, Gooding, Idaho, winner of the Outstanding Achievement in Energy Efficiency award.
• Green Valley Dairy, Krakow, Wis., winner of the Outstanding Achievement in Renewable Energy award.
• Fulper Family Farmstead, Lambertsville, N.J., honorable mention, Outstanding Achievement in Renewable Energy.