Guest Blog: More than a Farmer: Environmentalist

Guest blogger, Rebecca Shaw is a dairy enthusiast and blogger at The Cow Chronicler™

Farmers wear many hats on the job, like animal care taker, business owner, economist and scientist, to name a few. In celebration of #EarthDay, I’d like to talk to you about a really important hat… and that’s being an environmentalist.

Here’s the thing. We all need to take care of the planet if we’d like to stay on it. I’m not sure that many people understand this more than farmers. Dairy farmers in particular are really good at finding innovative ways to be better environmental stewards. They need to be – their job is feeding the world.

Though we could go on forever, let’s work our way through one real life example of how dairy farmers are taking care of Mother Earth.

The power of poop! That’s right – cow poop (manure). Manure is what we call ‘liquid gold’ on a dairy farm and for good reason. It can be recycled in several different ways:

  • Manure is often used as a fertilizer on fields. This is a part of a Nutrient Management Plan, which helps dairy farmers provide a balance of nutrients that are necessary for the health of the plants and the soil, while maximizing yields (food per acre) and minimizing environmental risks. You can read more about it here.
  • Methane digesters are a tool utilized on many farms, turning poop into power. Methane digesters take the manure and create electricity out of the methane gas, which can be used to power the ENTIRE dairy farm. If there’s extra electricity, it can be sent to the ‘grid’ and used by other members of the community.
  • After the gas is turned into electricity, there is the liquid and the dry portion of the manure left. We already talked about how liquid manure can be used as a fertilizer. The remaining dried manure can be used as a comfortable bedding for cows in the barn. Check out another story about this practice

I spoke with Yvette Longenecker, Pennsylvania dairy farmer, about what it really means to be a dairy farmer on earth day. She replied, with real and intense passion, “To wake up and work every day, knowing that the more you care for your livestock, the more they will give back to you. We invest every single day to providing the best of everything to our cows. We give to them what we often deprive of ourselves. The best nutrition, comfort and attention we can afford.”

She continued, “Farmers are literally on the ‘front-lines’ of the environmental campaign. We feel the need to not only defend our farming practices, but to protect the land that serves our livelihoods. If we don’t, we are only going to lose in the end. We need to be our own advocates, so it is our voices that are heard by our neighbors and communities. Whether it be through our practices or by our day to day discussion with others.” 

If there’s one thing I want you take away from this story, it’s that ALL farmers are team players for Mother Earth, and so are you. We’re all in this together and can do something every day that gives back to a planet that gives so much to us. Now grab an ice-cold glass of milk (chocolate for me) and let’s have a toast to Earth Day!