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Sustainable Farming is Every Farmer’s Mission

December 12, 2016

I give a lot of credit to my father Eugene for our commitment to sustainable dairy farming. He had a strong respect for our land and a great eye for identifying ways to repurpose byproducts that result from dairy farming.

In the 1970s, he saw value in cow manure when others saw it as only waste.

He knew you could make energy from manure and demonstrated how by heating it in a 55-gallon drum. That same concept serves as the foundation for how methane digesters operate today. We have a digester that helps power our farm as do others across the U.S. It’s one way for dairies to be more sustainable.

Taking a cue from my father, we also look at manure as a source of value. I was at a state agricultural meeting years ago when the benefits of digesters were being discussed and how a nutrient-rich material was leftover. Somehow, we landed on the idea of making flower pots from this material and someone said to me: “You could make it happen!” That day started one of the most incredible journeys of my life.

It took eight years of trial and error – and overcoming many slammed doors – to fully develop the concept, but today we produce CowPots on our farm. The pots come in various shapes and sizes and can withstand months in a greenhouse. Ultimately, the intent is to plant the entire biodegradable pot in the ground and have its nutrients nourish the plant as it grows. It’s very rewarding to see the nutrients from our farm benefit so many people – especially because many are disconnected from the work we do here every day.

Our CowPots are the “greenest” pots you’ll find, but the credit really goes to our wonderful herd of cows. Think about this cycle of sustainability: our cows produce the manure that goes into the digester to create the power that helps us manufacture the pots. That leftover material serves as the core of the CowPots, so everything we produce comes at no cost to the environment.

And did I mention those same cows produce wholesome milk that is used to make nutrient-rich foods for all of us to enjoy?

Like farmers everywhere, we’re always looking at what’s next when it comes to being a sustainable dairy farm. That’s why we installed solar panels on our barn roofs, making us completely energy-independent.

What’s great about being a farmer is the bond among us, whether we’re growing crops, milking cows or working with hogs or chickens. We’re all driven by a desire to produce food and to do so in the most sustainable manner possible.

This point was driven home at the recent Sustainable Agriculture Summit I attended in Atlanta, November 15-17. More than 500 people from nearly every walk of agriculture gathered to share insights and to learn from one another. This is incredibly important when you consider about 2 percent of our nation’s population works each day to make sure the other 98 percent has a safe, abundant and responsibly-produced supply of food.

The summit showed me how united we all are in working toward this common goal. 

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