Friday, 04 March 2011
Our Environmental Commitment
Isn't it funny how "carbon footprint reporting" has become so trendy all of a sudden? We are told it is a major marketing tool and advantage. So here we are writing a new Carbon Footprint page about what we've always been doing. Sorry folks, we haven't changed the way we farm. But we think you'll agree we are being responsible about the way we farm. Good environmental management is often just good economics! Let me share a few examples:
1: Grazing Cows - Cows were born to graze. And fresh grass makes GREAT milk! But think too of the carbon implications of grazing versus barn-feeding: reduced machine time harvesting (we still harvest one cut of spring grass that we make into silage for winter feeding), reduced machine time feeding (none during grazing season), reduced machine time spreading manure (they spread it themselves!). Because our fields are in permanent pasture we have no machine time ploughing and planting fields. Every hour not spent on machines both reduces fuel consumption and increases the life of the machine. Plus did you know that intensively managed permanent pasture is a better carbon sink than the Amazon Rain Forest on a per acre basis? Not bad for the environment eh?
2: Field Nutrients - To grow good grass you need to feed it. Our approach has been to use the manure and urine (urea!) from the cows, collected in the winter and self-spread in the summer, to keep the grass green and healthy. We also apply lime, and occasionally seaweed (Irish Moss), both from local sources. The best trick of all however is clover. This simple plant most people view as a weed is excellent feed, but better than that it "fixes nitrogen", stealing the free nitrogen from the air we breath and fixing it as nodules on its roots, thus providing a fabulous source of slow release nitrogen to the grass plant living next door! Absolutely free! With all that good stuff we don't need to use synthetic fertilizers. So we don't. Did you know that there are more critters living in the soil on our farm than the entire human population of the globe!?
3: On-farm Food Production - Certainly shipping agricultural products around the world is a great cause of concern for carbon management. Our milk doesn't go anywhere, except down a 150ft pipeline to the cheese vat. So no expensive milk hauling. When we do ship the much more condensed cheese product we use commercial distributors, thus minimizing the impact of shipping our individual products. And we never ship outside of BC. In fact 99% of our cheese is actually sold within the magical 100 miles of our farm! Another advantage of processing our own milk is that every morning it goes down that pipeline still warm from the cow. So we don't have to cool it down, refrigerate it and then heat it up again in the cheese vat. Nice!
4: Habitat Care - It only relates indirectly to our carbon footprint, but our habitat management is central to our vision of farming. We maintain and improve the creek, ponds and riparian areas on the farm. We plant shelter belts and maintain forests on the farm. We support duck/geese and deer/elk habitat. As animal farmers we always strive to house our stock in ways that promote their natural behaviours. Our goal is to share the habitat that is the farm in a way that is good for all of its wide range of occupants: wild animals, river critters, farm and domestic animals, soil life, bugs, birds and people (guests, customers, staff and the farm family).
I actually lied at the beginning of this page. We have taken a few additional small steps in recent years to improve our carbon foot print. For example we've installed compact fluorescents and timers for our barn lights. And we keep learning, and stay open to other new improvements. We're all in this together. If you have found any helpful solutions on your farm please let us know.