New recruits in the battle against climate change.
California has a pioneering spirit. Rural folks there have been on the frontier for generations. That frontier may have been gold mines and cattle grasslands in the past, but today that frontier is the very air, soil and water of California itself. Climate change is transforming California like it’s transforming our globe. But Californians are leading the pioneer charge to transform, with pragmatism, ingenuity and a commitment to rural communities.
Just recently, I visited a small dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, the site of an anaerobic digester. Case Van Steyn’s operation of around 700 cows produces manure, and the Maas Energy digester, secluded in an unobtrusive red shipping container, uses the manure to produce methane. That methane creates enough electricity to power 125 homes—and enough to sell electricity back to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or SMUD. Read more »
Dairy farmer Nelson Hostetler says each cow is producing more milk, and he was able to increase his herd size by 25 percent, up to about 125 cows per day, without increasing his labor. Photo credit: Charlie Rahm.
Polk County dairy farmer Nelson Hostetler can think of a ton of reasons to like his new dairy shed and animal waste system. The most obvious reasons are documented in Hostetler’s daily production log. It shows that the 100 cows that formerly resided in a couple of pastures are producing about 2,000 more pounds of milk each day since they were brought in the shed less than a year ago.
“NRCS’ interest is in protecting the quality and healthfulness of the natural resources that everyone needs,” said State Conservationist J.R. Flores. “Situations like Mr. Hostetler’s in which actions taken to protect the environment also improve his operation are great, because everyone benefits.” Read more »
Dairy farmers Matt and Debbie Hoff with their daughters Courtney, Brook and Alicia. Photo credit: Genevieve Lister.
Producing high quality, nutritious milk may be a top priority for Coldsprings Farm, but it is not the farm’s only accomplishment. Nestled between the rolling acres and lush green meadows of New Windsor, Maryland, lies a showcase of a dairy farm where owners Matt and Debbie Hoff are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to reduce runoff of nutrients and sediment, leading to cleaner water downstream.
This is especially important, as Coldsprings Farm sits amid the Monocacy watershed, which eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Read more »
Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visits Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture during the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit. Photo courtesy of Fuel Up to Play 60.
Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.
In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few. Read more »
NRCS Soil Conservationist Danny Peet, left, worked with Vermont farmer Lorenzo Whitcomb to implement edge-of-field water quality monitoring in an effort to minimize impacts to water quality from agricultural runoff.
Stewardship and cutting-edge technology are nothing new to the North Williston Cattle Company, a Vermont dairy farm that uses solar energy and robotic milking machines. The latest advancement on the 800-acre, 224-head operation are edge-of-field water quality monitoring stations, which measure water quality and the benefits of using conservation practices on the dairy farm.
Lorenzo Whitcomb, one of the managers of the family-run dairy, worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to install the monitoring stations. NRCS has made technical and financial assistance available to farmers in key watersheds across the country.
“The results from this study will illustrate to farmers more precisely the real benefits that conservation practices have on water quality,” said Kip Potter, NRCS water quality specialist. Read more »
David Petersen uses a variety of conservation practices to prevent nutrients from washing off his dairy farm into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi Rivers. NRCS photo.
David Petersen takes extra steps to ensure his dairy in southeast Iowa does not impact water quality downstream. Through voluntary conservation work, he prevents manure from washing off the dairy into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi rivers.
Majestic Manor, run by Peterson and his wife Amy, has been in the family for four generations. They milk about 120 Holstein dairy cows twice daily and also grow corn, alfalfa, oats, triticale and soybeans on about 320 acres. Petersen likes to refer to his operation as “closed-loop” where the soil feeds the crops, the crops feed the cattle, and the cattle feed the soil. “It is a benefit to everyone,” he says. Read more »