Sustainability practices implemented on dairy farms
Story courtesy of Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association
The dairy farmers of Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA) have formed an unlikely friendship.
Since 2018, MDVA has joined hands with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to develop clean water partnerships with dairy supply chain partners. These partnerships have raised more than $46 million for dairy farm sustainability.
The duo recently hosted three volunteer-led tree plantings on family-owned dairy farms. J-Team Dairy in Orange County, Va., Cool Lawn Farms in Remington, Va., and Tulip Pond Farm in Union Bridge, Md., are now home to more than 1,200 trees. The trees will help improve local water quality by reducing the amount of nutrients (manure) and sediments entering their respective watersheds. These tree plantings are just a few of dozens of sustainability practices that have been installed on MDVA member farms since the relationship with the Alliance began.
“We need to hold onto our natural resources. It’s our job.” — Molly McWilliams, J-Team Dairy
“Our dairy farmers want to have a seat at the table and be considered an environmental solution,” says Lindsay Reames, executive vice president of sustainability and external relations at MDVA. “As proud owners of Maola Milk, we’re pioneering unique sustainability partnerships that ensure we’re the sustainable choice for dairy for consumers up and down the East Coast.”
Jim and Terri Elgin of J-Team Dairy approach dairy farming with a focus on animal care and sustainability. In addition to the upcoming tree planting, the farm is working closely with MDVA, the Alliance and other environmental organizations to construct a new barn and a manure storage facility to reduce runoff to local streams and keep cows cool, clean and dry. The farm also utilizes crop cover practices to keep soil and nutrients on the farm and out of local streams.
“I think farmers have a responsibility to protect the environment and be sustainable,” says Molly McWilliams with J-Team Dairy. “We need to hold onto our natural resources. It’s our job. It starts with us.”
Collaboration is at the forefront of this work. Many dairy farmers are leaving the industry due to low milk prices. Those who stay realize there’s a huge need to increase their operations’ sustainability. However, many cannot prioritize sustainability without supply chain support that brings significant funding, technical support, and incentives to manage their farms for the future.
The Alliance assists with procuring dairy farm funding from partners like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Piedmont Environmental Council, Giant Food, Turkey Hill Dairy, and state-level government agencies like the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. MDVA is leveraging their partnership with the Alliance to achieve their environmental goals, which include achieving greenhouse gas neutrality, maximizing water recycling, and improving water quality by optimizing utilization of manure and its nutrients. As they work to achieve these goals, they’re adding a 14th essential nutrient — sustainability — to the milk they process.
For more, visit mdvamilk.com.