by Enrico Villamaino
The National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program announced the first winners of the FARM Excellence Awards.
Emily Yeiser Stepp, vice president of FARM, stated, “We are grateful for the quality of program participants and all those who go above and beyond with the FARM program.”
FARM was created as a joint initiative by the National Milk Producers Federation in partnership with Dairy Management Inc. to highlight the dairy industry’s care of both cows and the environment, production of safe, wholesome milk and adherence to the highest standards of workforce development.
Established in 2021, the FARM Excellence Awards recognize farms and evaluators demonstrating excellence in one of five areas: Animal Care, Antibiotic Stewardship, Biosecurity, Environmental Stewardship and Workforce Development. To qualify for an award, farm facilities must have a current FARM evaluation in the relevant award’s category area and no overdue animal care corrective action plans. All animal care, environmental stewardship and workforce development evaluators certified by FARM as of Aug. 31, 2021 are likewise eligible for an award.
Canon Dairy, located in West Middlesex, PA, took home the 2021 award for environmental stewardship. The award recognizes a farm’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use while improving its ability to measure and improve their comprehensive carbon footprint.
Founded in 1909 by Benjamin Franklin Canon, the dairy is today owned by his great-grandson Mark Canon and his wife Marie. The dairy boasts a herd of 115 Holsteins on a 350-acre plot. Canon Dairy sells the majority of its milk through the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) cooperative. In addition to this, the dairy has recently begun bottling its milk and selling it both on-site as well as at West Middlesex’s own Palumbo’s Meat Market.
“We’ve always looked at ways to become more efficient,” said Marie. “Five and a half years ago, we started using two Lely milking robots. That was a big improvement, and we’ve actually found that the cows’ overall health has improved because of the milking robots.” She also credited the installation of solar panels two years ago with a marked decrease in the farm’s use of outsourced electricity. “We estimate that solar is saving us somewhere between 50% and 60% on our energy costs overall.”
Marie continued, “Our son Trent is this dairy’s fifth generation. He loves agronomy and is a big advocate of no-till farming, and we try to adhere to that whenever possible. The conservation practices we’ve implemented have helped to eliminate erosion, lower inputs, reduce herbicide usage and fertilizer costs and lessen soil compaction [due to] less passes over the fields.”
Marie also stated that a written nutrient program, created three years ago, greatly improved dairy operations. “It’s really spelled out just how much manure to apply and just when to apply it.”