Celebrate Earth Day and sustainable dairy farming

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The celebration of Earth Day officially began 45 years ago as a way to demonstrate support for environmental protection. For dairy farmers and much of the agriculture community, every day is Earth Day and April 22nd is simply the day that the rest of the world acknowledges what we have appreciated for centuries.

We strive to be responsible stewards of the environment because we understand as much as anyone that our livelihood and legacy are intimately connected to the health of the land, air and water we all share.

We work diligently to protect these precious resources which provide the foundation for the cows we nurture in order to produce milk, but also because this same land is where we raise our families and hope to pass along to future generations. This is why sustainability is so important, because we need to be able to produce nutritious and affordable foods like milk and grow crops while maintaining or even reducing the amount of land required to do so.

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Advances in the dairy industry have allowed us to produce 60 percent more milk, using 64 percent fewer cows in the past seven decades.

In fact, it takes about 90 percent less land to produce a gallon of milk compared to 1944.

Dairy farmers are doing more now than ever before to re-use and recycle the waste their cows produce, to improve their cropland and even create power. Some of us take our manure and spread it around in our fields to fertilize grass, corn or other crops.

Dried out manure can even be used as sanitary bedding for cows.

One recent development that has made an impact among fellow dairy farmers is the use of methane digesters.

The machines convert the cows’ manure into electricity which can be used by the farm or sent back to the grid. Some farmers are even putting in solar panels or windmills to produce power on their farms.

Dairy farmers like me have lived “green” for decades, not because it’s a movement, but because it’s the right thing to do and happens to be good for business.

So if you’re looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day, raise a glass of milk or thank a farmer for what they do the other 364 days each year.



April Harris and family