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Meet the 2017 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards Winners

The 2017 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards winners have been unveiled!

This sixth annual program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet. Click through to get to know this year’s winners.

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability

Winner: Kinnard Farms, Casco, Wisconsin

The Kinnard Family milks more than 7,000 cows—a scale that allows them to maximize water, soil and cow comfort while supporting their rural community. They retain the area’s young, college-educated residents by employing them to innovate farm technology. The Kinnards are often on the cutting edge; they made a first-of-its-kind sand recycling center—one that uses no freshwater in the process—to separate, wash and dry sand for repeated use. Sand is this farm’s preferred bedding material because it provides comfort and sure footing for cows and is bacteria-free, keeping udders healthy.

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability

Winner: Rickreall Dairy, Rickreall, Oregon

Rickreall, Oregon, residents know Louie Kazemier as a good neighbor. In fact, his relationships are the force behind his farm’s frequent improvements. For example, when solids were building up in his manure lagoon, Louie initiated trade with a seed farmer to provide fertilizer in exchange for feed. He also collaborated with a local food processor to use their waste water for irrigation. Kazemier depends on a whole-system approach to tend to what matters—and that turns out to be everything. The results are big: for one, most of the dairy’s 25 employees have been there for more than 20 years.

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability

Winner: SwissLane Farms, Alto, Michigan

This farm is 23 miles from downtown Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan. That poses both pressures from urban sprawl and opportunities to reach people several generations removed from the farm. Since 2006, SwissLane’s Dairy Discovery program has offered farm tours, reaching more than 36,000 students, teachers and families. They have plenty to demonstrate when it comes to sustainable practices. After a farm energy audit, they made improvements that reduced energy costs by 17% per cow. They also took steps to become verified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program so neighbors continue to see results.

Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability

Winner: Glanbia Nutritionals, Evanston, Illinois

While the Glanbia Nutritionals brand is not seen by consumers in a grocery store, it has a big footprint as one of the leading manufacturers of American-style cheese and whey. To implement a sustainability plan, they started with a single plant in Idaho. The team determined priority impact areas, measured social presence, determined metrics to demonstrate progress, and identified areas where additional resourcing was needed. By 2016, the company had replicated this approach with three more plants and adopted a global sustainability strategy that promises to “nurture, grow and sustain the lives of our employees, milk producers, customers, consumers and communities.”  

Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship

Winner: Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

The Keller family participated in the Pleasant Valley Watershed Project, a collaboration among state, local and national agencies to reduce the local watershed’s phosphorous load. Results were dramatic and positive. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is expected to propose removing the Pleasant Valley Branch from the EPA’s list of sediment-impaired streams. Other farms that participated in the project saw economic benefits too, and this spurred them to form a group to build on the learnings. The Kellers, whose family has farmed the hills of Mount Horeb since the late 1840s, saw cost savings as well as environmental benefits.

Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships

Winner: Oakland View Farms & Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Caroline County, Maryland

Environmental communities and farmers haven’t always seen eye to eye – especially in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, where water quality is a significant issue. But these groups identified a common goal: improve the community’s water quality through cost-effective projects that could be replicated. They did that with a woodchip bioreactor – the first of its kind in Maryland – that eliminated nitrogen from agricultural drainage water. An effective, virtually maintenance-free solution, it eliminates 48 pounds of nitrate-nitrogen from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay each year.  


Pictured above, left to right: Louie Kazemier, Rickreall Dairy; Ken Nobis, Michigan Milk Producers Association; Dick Edwards, Oakland View Farms; Tim Rosen, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy; Annie Link, SwissLane Farms; ; Robert Hagevoort, U. S. Dairy Education & Training Consortium; Mark Keller, Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc.; Lucas Fuess, Glanbia Nutritionals; Lee Kinnard, Kinnard Farms; Matt Nuckols, Emcee, Eastview Farms Inc.; Barbara O’Brien, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Not pictured: Mercer Vu Farms.