How America’s Dairy Farmers Are Making Cheese Greener (& Higher) Than Ever

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We’ve teamed up with Dairy Farmers of America and The Nerd Herd to shine a highlight on the sustainability efforts of their household farm-owners, from farm to desk to cheesemakers and past.

Between Buffalo and the Finger Lakes, there stands a 143-year-old tree surrounded by huge acres of neon-green pastures. The tree, one of many largest cottonwoods within the state of New York, was planted in 1880 by Frank Tillotson, who had simply purchased the land to boost dairy cows. He named his emergent enterprise Cottonwood Farms after the tree—a enterprise that isn’t solely nonetheless thriving as we speak, however innovating.

Cottonwood is certainly one of many dairy farms targeted on the best way they farm with a purpose to be part of the answer in serving to the planet. They’re household farm-owners of Dairy Farmers of America, a farmer-owned cooperative of practically 11,000 household farm-owners throughout the U.S. working to provide environmentally-friendly milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, and different dairy merchandise that don’t skimp on high quality.

At Cottonwood, this dedication to sustainability is all about heritage. “We’re solely stewards of the land for a short while,” says Paul Tillotson, fourth-generation proprietor and Frank’s great-grandson. “It’s vital to us that we’re leaving it in nearly as good as or higher situation than we bought it in.” Cottonwood has been an authorized natural farm since 2005, they usually’re residence to 2 of solely three Photo voltaic Hybrid Subtle Augmented Wind Generators—which use each photo voltaic and wind power to energy the farm—within the nation. Additionally they run bi-facial photo voltaic panels that mirror the solar’s rays in the summertime and bounce gentle off of the snow in winter. Additionally they develop feed for his or her 300 dairy cows who graze freely throughout 800 acres of clean, rolling grassland.

The Tillotsons’ efforts are a part of DFA’s work to scale back its carbon footprint to internet zero or internet detrimental, an effort wherein they not too long ago bought a lift from a USDA grant to reduce methane emissions and improve soil carbon sequestration. This work is led by an aptly named Nerd Herd—a group of farmers, engineers, scientists, veterinarians, and lots of others who’re working to make dairy extra sustainable—and demonstrates that dairy is a part of the answer to local weather change.

Picture by Dairy Farmers of America

“Each bit of our operation works collectively,” says Will Collier, DFA farmer-owner of T&Ok Dairy, in Snyder, Texas. “We develop feed for the cows and convert their waste into fertilizer for the crops. We use recycled water from our lagoon to flush and clear the concrete lanes within the robotic barn, after which use the identical water on our fields to assist fertilize the crops.” Collier additionally maintains detailed information of any chemical substances used on the land, screens soil for nutrient ranges, and retains his cows wholesome with lights and followers (and even back-scratchers) arrange on energy-efficient timers.

A number of DFA household farms now additionally use anaerobic digesters, which seize methane emitted by the cows’ waste and convert it into power that can be utilized on the farm—or bought again to the grid. At Philip Verwey Farm in Hanford, California, the operation produces sufficient renewable power to energy the 4,600-acre farm and allow Philip and Brent Verwey to promote two-thirds of their power again to the native utility cooperative.

And it isn’t all digesters—DFA can be dedicated to mitigating methane emissions by supporting trials for feed components which will cut back cows’ methane output.

Picture by Dairy Farmers of America

“Essentially the most untold story of our business is what we’re doing as recyclers,” says AJ de Jager, DFA farmer-owner of Hunter Ridge Dairy in Ault, Colorado. “We bale outdated tires and recycle them as windbreaks for our feed lot. They soak up daylight and create the next thermal output and insulation.” Hunter Ridge additionally recycles their meals scraps, water, and manure. At different operations, similar to Brownhaven Farm in New Bremen, Ohio, sustainability initiatives take the type of crop rotation, administration of water run-off, and wetland institution. At Crimson Ridge Dairy in Watertown, Wisconsin, Shelly Grosenick retains chickens to assist with natural pest management, and makes soaps from her leftover uncooked milk. “Taking good care of the land in order that it takes care of us is vital,” Grosenick says.

All of this creates dairy you possibly can really feel nice about consuming—and never simply because it’s higher for the planet. Members of the Nerd Herd guarantee sustainability for the complete DFA ecosystem at each flip. From the veterinarians who be certain that the cows are completely satisfied and wholesome to the engineers (affectionately known as the “engi-nerds”) who assist the household farms transition to renewable power sources, this group of specialists contributes to the feel-good issue of sustainably-made cheese.

“Being environmentally pleasant is nice for everybody,” says Brent Verwey. “It’s good for the general public and it’s good for the business.”

Picture by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Veronica Olson. Meals Stylist: Lauren LaPenna.

The farmer-owners of DFA produce the dairy that goes into a variety of merchandise, from butter and cream to cheddar and gouda—and their web site, Half & Half, has loads of recipes that can assist you rework all that sustainably-made dairy into comforting, scrumptious dishes. Because the identify suggests, their 5 Cheese and Mushroom Sluggish Cooker Risotto employs a medley of cheeses like Asiago, fontina, and parmesan, whereas their Cauliflower Mac ‘n’ Cheese makes use of their planet-friendly milk, butter, and mozzarella. On the candy facet, we additionally love their creamy No-Bake Lemon Curd Cheesecake Bars.

In search of a style of traditional American dairy? Look no additional than the cheese curds in Food52’s Greatest Poutine. You may also share sustainable dairy at your subsequent gathering with a Bloody Mary Cheese Plate and our Best, Cheesiest Skillet Dip, or take a cue from South Korean YouTube star Mangchi and whip up some Grilled Cheese Tteokbokki. The chances are at all times countless in terms of cooking with good dairy, and much more so when it’s dairy you possibly can be ok with consuming.

What are your favourite tacky dishes to make with American dairy? Inform us within the feedback beneath!

Our pals at Dairy Farmers of America are dedicated to preserving farmers’ legacies and nourishing a hungry world. They champion sustainability by way of innovation, community-building, and naturally, loads of scrumptious dairy. To study extra about DFA and sustainably-made dairy, go to their web site.

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