The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, established under the leadership of dairy farmers and leading companies, announced its eighth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners during a May 8 ceremony in Rosemont, Ill.
The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet.
Award winners represent U.S. dairy’s commitment to sustainability, demonstrating how transparency and ingenuity lead to sustainable and scalable practices that benefit their businesses, communities and the environment.
“This year’s winners show how innovation and creativity sparked by one farm, one person or one organization can have a ripple effect that goes well beyond their farmgate or front door,” said Barb O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Each winner exemplifies our industry’s values. They demonstrate that caring for the environment, our cows and our communities is our heritage and what we stand for every day.”
Through creative problem solving, this year’s winners addressed environmentally beneficial production practices, resource and energy reduction as well as the essential role of dairy in bringing quality nutrition to food-insecure populations.
Judges evaluated nominations based on their economic, environmental and community impact. The independent judging panel, including leading dairy conservation and commercial experts, also considered innovation, scalability and replicability.
“This program and these winners show there are no limitations to dairy ingenuity,” said Marilyn Hershey, Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chair of the Dairy Management Inc. board of directors. “Our commitment to sustainable practices shines through from the farm across the value chain. These are the stories that are important to today’s consumer and matter to the future of our industry.”
One of this year’s judges, Suzy Friedman, senior director of agricultural sustainability at Environmental Defense Fund, added: “We had many high-quality entries and winners who make sustainable practices a priority in their own operations. Even better, their leadership can spark positive change across other parts of the dairy industry with practices that can be replicated.”
The 2019 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners are:
Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability
Cinnamon Ridge Farms, Donahue, Iowa - Cinnamon Ridge Farms owner John Maxwell found an economic and environmentally sustainable solution to sourcing cow feed early in his career by planting a cover crop during the winter season. The crop, rye grass, survived harsh growing conditions while providing great nutrition for his cows. The cover crop prevents nutrient runoff and erosion, building healthier soil for corn or soybean crops. The farm also became a destination for food waste, accepting 2,000 lb. of coffee creamer from a manufacturing company each week instead of letting it end up in a landfill. The creamer provides a carbohydrate source for the cows’ diet with added flavor.
Majestic Crossing Dairy, Sheboygan Falls, Wis. - The 2,000 cows at Majestic Crossing Dairy are the result of a unique strategic shift when co-owner Dean Strauss began building a herd of crossbreeds. The cows tend to be smaller in size, so they require less food and produce less manure. Strauss has adopted a global positioning system guidance system on his tractors and other machinery that helps identify efficiencies in seed distribution while also reducing fuel, pesticide and fertilizer use on the 3,600 acres of crops grown to feed the cows. Majestic Crossing also invested in robotic milking machines that have reduced his farm’s water use by 30%, or about 20 gal. per cow each day.
Philip Verwey Farms, Hanford, Cal. - Philip Verwey had a notion to implement changes on his 9,000-cow Philip Verwey Farms to help improve air quality. His idea was that, rather than blending feed ingredients for his cows in a mixing wagon powered by a diesel tractor, he would blend using an electric stationary mixer. He applied for funding through the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s Technology Advancement Program to help convert his feed mixing program. The changes cut his dairy’s tractor-related emissions substantially, the equivalent of taking 7,800 cars off the road. His success led to an expanded program and inspired other farms to apply for funding.
Outstanding Dairy Supply Chain Collaboration
General Mills and Foremost Farms, Reed City, Mich. - To reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and add environmental benefits, General Mills and Foremost Farms USA convened a powerful network of 16 dairy farmers and other experts to assess and implement improvements using a science-based, on-farm assessment tool to provide a comprehensive estimate of a farm’s GHG emissions and energy use. Participating farms saw a combined 11% reduction in GHG over a three-year period, which outperformed the national and regional benchmark averages. The FARM Environmental Stewardship module is helping farmers across America improve efficiencies, reduce costs and track their performance against environmental goals.
Outstanding Community Impact
Gleaners Community Food Bank, Detroit, Mich. - Gleaners Community Food Bank, which serves the emergency food network in southeastern Michigan, ensured that more clients will have access to fresh, nutritious milk by partnering with the dairy community. Together, they established a fundraising campaign that’s built to last, and they mastered the logistical challenge of getting refrigerated milk to families in need – with the help of a mobile food pantry and an improved distribution model. In 2018, they successfully provided 229,000 gal. of milk to those in need.
The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award program is supported by generous sponsors. This year’s sponsors are: DeLaval, Phibro Animal Health, Syngenta, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and World Wildlife Fund.
Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy is a forum that brings together the dairy community to address the changing needs and expectations of consumers through a framework of shared best practices and accountability. Initiated in 2008 by dairy farmers through the dairy checkoff, the center collaborates on efforts that are important both to the dairy industry and its customers – issues like animal care, food safety, nutrition and health, the environment and economics. The Innovation Center is committed to continuous improvement from farm to table, striving to ensure a socially responsible and economically viable dairy community.