OKEMOS, Mich. — The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced its sixth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards in a June 28 ceremony in Chicago. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet. SwissLane Farms, Alto, Michigan, won a national award for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability. The farm was one of three national winners in their category.
Owned by the Oesch family, SwissLane Farms is 23 miles from downtown Grand Rapids. 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. SwissLane Farms is a member of the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative.
“SwissLane Farms is an outstanding example of environmental stewardship and community outreach. It’s increasingly important to show the public the steps being taken by dairy farmers to preserve the land, air and water for future generations, and SwissLane reaches many thousands of people every year through their Dairy Discovery program,” said Chad Frahm, senior vice president, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.
The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, The Kroger Co. of Michigan, Michigan Milk Producers Association and Michigan State University Extension won an honorable mention in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships for working together in 2016 to donate 36,864 gallons of milk to the residents of Flint. Much of it went to low-income households and children who do not always have access to nutritious foods such as milk.
Award winners represent the U.S. dairy community’s voluntary efforts toward continuous improvement in sustainability. “This year’s winners demonstrated impressive leadership and creativity in the application of technology and other practices that protect our land, air and water. And they’re proactive about building strong relationships with their communities and employees,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. “Based on this year’s nominations, it’s clear that all sizes of dairy farms and companies use sustainable practices because it’s good for the environment, good for their community and good for business.”
Judges evaluated nominations based on their economic, environmental and community impact. The independent judging panel — including experts working with and throughout the dairy community — also considered learning, innovation, scalability and reliability.
Through creative problem solving, this year’s winners addressed water quality, soil fertility, community outreach, energy efficiency and more.
From farm to table, transparency and ingenuity drive dairy forward, as demonstrated in the newly released 2016 Sustainability Report, which describes the Innovation Center’s strategic plan focused on social responsibility. The plan was developed by dairy community leaders in recognition of the changing consumer and customer marketplace where health, environmental and ethical practices are of increasing interest.
The additional winners in the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability category were Kinnard Farms, Casco, Wisconsin, and Rickreall Dairy, Rickreall, Oregon. Additional winners in other categories included:
- Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability
Glanbia Nutritionals, Evanston, Illinois
- Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship
Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., Mount Horeb, Wisconsin
- Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships
Oakland View Farms & Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Caroline City, Maryland
Additional Honorable Mentions included:
- U.S. Dairy Education & Training Consortium Extension, College Station, Texas
Mercer Vu Farms, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania