The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced the winners of the 4th annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards on May 7, 2015, at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. The program recognizes outstanding dairy farms, businesses and partnerships for practices large and small that not only focus on the environment, but add up to promote the health and well-being of consumers, communities, cows, employees, the planet and business. In the official notification of winners, here’s how the Center profiled Oregon Dairy Farm of Lititz, PA. “In a sustainability meets farm-to-fork experience, the Hurst family composts food waste along with cow manure to produce a rich source of nutrients sold to gardeners; runs solar panels on their grocery store roof to provide 10 percent of the store’s electricity needs; and operates an anaerobic digester that helps capture methane gas from manure to make electricity and heat for hot water.”
“We were recognized for things that we do on our farm and in farming practices,” said OD’s Managing Partner George Hurst. “It speaks to how we farm and take care of our cows and use our resources.” Because this is a Sustainability award, how does that factor into OD’s plans? “As we farm our land,” Hurst explained, “we are still sustaining it and keeping it in play. Even though we get good crops out of it, the land is in good shape, as sustainable as it is from one year to the next. We keep it from eroding, keep the nutrients in place, and maintain the waterways.”
“This year’s award winners truly are changing the equation for what the industry and consumers think about sustainability,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center. “Each winner has a unique commitment to sustainability that has strengthened their connections with their communities, ensured the stability of the waterways and wildlife surrounding their properties and blazed new trails for other dairy farms and businesses to follow.”
Sustainable practices recognized this year range from water conservation and recovery of food waste to a community-based program that increases access to fresh milk for families in need. The winners were selected based on results as measured by economic, environmental and community impact, also known as triple-bottom-line success. An independent panel of judges — which included experts working with and through the dairy industry — also assessed the potential for adoption by others, demonstrated learning, innovation, improvement and scalability.
“To continue to pass their farms and companies down to the next generation, this year’s award winners have done an excellent job improving upon best practices and serving their communities,” said Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairy farmer, member of the judging panel and chair of Dairy Management Inc™. “I am excited to share their successes so they can easily be adopted by others in the industry.”
“Incidentally,” Hurst said, “another component of receiving the award is the ag education that we do here on the farm.” Oregon Dairy Farms goes the extra mile by having an annual Family Farm Days, where for three days the farm is open to the public replete with picnic tables and rides on wagons. There is a petting zoo including a unit where very young children can visit one-on-one with a new calf, petting it and being slightly wary to see whether or not calves bite. The event draws 12,000 to 15,000 visitors, or 4000 to 5000 per day average.