By: Kendra Kissane, MMPA Sustainability Professional
There’s a quote by poet, writer and farmer Wendell Berry that states “the Earth is what we all have in common.”
I’ve found this quote useful to help create a common ground when having a dialogue about the importance of caring for our environment. No matter where you come from, your background, history, economic status, etc., we all share this planet and it’s in all our interests to take care of it the best we can.
While some people believe that they won’t be around to see the effects of how we take care of Earth during their lifetime, I see a great sense of environmental leadership coming from a group that you may not suspect – farmers.
Responsible farmers understand the importance of environmental improvements that come from implementing best management practices on their farms. An example of two environmental practices and improvements that have an impact on the environment are implementing a written nutrient (manure) management plan and creating a biodiversity action plan to protect and enhance our ecosystem.
Growing up on my family’s dairy farm in the village of Hersey, Michigan, I unknowingly experienced examples of proactive environmental improvement practices. One such example is over the course of about 20 years, our farm used a nutrient management plan by strategically applying waste produced by the cows on the sandy hills of an old gravel pit. Pine trees and grass were also added later to provide a windbreak for our heifers grazing throughout the summer months.
Looking back now I don’t believe my parents called either of these environmental practices what we call them today, nutrient management and biodiversity. We were just doing what was right – for the land, for our animals and for the generations to come.
Photo: Holger LRS Stieg Farm, LLC in Hersey, MI
In Michigan, dairy farmers have many resources and programs available to assist in identifying, improving and preventing potential environmental risks.
One of these programs is the innovative Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), which is a robust risk assessment that addresses four different areas to minimize agriculture pollution risk: 1. Livestock, 2. Farmstead, 3. Cropping, and 4. Forest, Wetlands and Habitats.
Another valuable tool for U.S. dairy farmers is the National Dairy FARM Program Environmental Stewardship (ES) module, which provides a comprehensive estimate of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy use associated with dairy farming.
By tracking advances in dairy production efficiency through this resource, farmers can assure dairy customers and consumers of their commitment to ongoing environmental progress and identify areas for improvement. The FARM Environmental Stewardship Continuous Improvement Reference Manual is available to assist producers and farm specialist in improving their environmental footprint.
Programs like these are helping farmers across the country work to do things better each day for the environment. The land, air and water are truly a gift that must be protected. It’s a responsibility that my family and every farmer I know takes very seriously.
Kendra Kissane is the Sustainability Coordinator at Michigan Milk Producers Association. You can find her on Facebook at Fresh Coast Farm Girl (formerly Farming Chiquely) and Instagram as @fresh_coast_farmgirl.