Sustainability is all about cycles. It asks us to question what we throw away – challenging the standard practice of produce, use and dispose. Whether we think about repurposing, as in the case of the Freund Family and their Cow Pots made from manure, or reuse , as Cabot farm Fairmont Farm employs with their innovative cover crop fertilizing process, sustainability functions in a circular direction. We aim to keep resources in the loop for as long as possible, minimizing the waste we send off to landfills.Repurposing cow manure and food waste to create renewable energy, divert waste from landfills, and so much more. #FarmerFriday Click To Tweet
In sustainability language, this is referred to as a ‘closed loop system.’ Simply put, a closed loop system seeks to build partnerships so that we can all work together towards a common goal rather than running in different directions. It’s like the old saying, “Many hands make light work” and as a co-operative, we see this in action every day.
For Cabot, the sustainability circle goes from the Cow to the Creamery to the Customer to the Consumer. This week’s Farmer Friday tells a unique story about repurposing cow manure and food waste to produce renewable energy, divert waste from landfills, improve air quality, better nutrient management and save money. In Hadley, MA, the Barstow Longview Farm represents an innovative model, serving as a beacon for success of closed loop systems.
The Longview Farm, run by the Barstow family, has been in operation since 1806. Brothers Steven and David and Steven II make up sixth and seventh generation partners, respectively. Along with managing some 400 acres and 550 cattle, the farm hosts Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery which features wholesome, local milk, local produce, baked goods and Cabot cheeses and cultured products. Sustainability is forefront in a big way for the Barstows with their robotic milkers and BGreen Anaerobic Digester driving positive outcomes for the economic, environmental and social benefits of the farm, their community and the Cabot co-operative at large.
What are the roots of stewardship and sustainability on your family farm?
The motto of Longview Farm is “Looking forward since 1806.” If there is a new way of doing things, a new technology, you better believe we are going to try it. Farmers are so connected with the land and environment that sustainability is always on our mind. Our way of life depends on it.
What sustainability initiative have you been most proud of?
Having a zero-waste, closed loop system is something that we are really proud of here on the farm. Our cows produce milk that goes on to Cabot. The byproduct of that milk comes back to us from Cabot to run our digester powering the butter production of the AgriMark plant in West Springfield. The remainder creates natural nutrient rich fertilizer for our crops we grow to feed for our girls so they can produce more milk for Cabot. But it goes beyond that single loop. We utilize the heat created by the digester to heat the farmhouse and the milk parlor. We use the electricity from the process to milk our cows. And we simultaneously work with Cabot to tell our shared and overlapping story of sustainability. In an increasingly conscientious world, we are proud to be taking serious strides toward a zero-waste footprint.
What is the next sustainability story on your farm?
Our engine burns methane from the food waste and manure to turn a generator and create electricity. Like any engine, a constant stream of cool water is piped through it to prevent it from overheating. This cool water comes out HOT. We use a heat recovery unit to capture that heat, utilizing the warmth to heat the digester tanks, the robotic milkers, and Grandma’s house. That being said, we aren’t even using half of this recovered heat! We are in the works of laying down pipe hundreds of feet from the engine to heat Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery and a number of homes of our family and neighbors. We will all be using recycled heat to warm our homes as opposed to burning fossil fuels. Zero waste and $0 heating bills.
How do you see your own sustainability initiatives helping to inspire your fellow farmers?
Anaerobic digesters were originally designed to run just on manure. Digesters, like the one you can find on our farm, use manure and food waste to get the same, if not better, results and capture and use methane that would otherwise be harmful to our environment and provide a useful and sustainable disposal service for local food producers across the state. An anaerobic digester is an intense investment, but a worthwhile one. This model makes anaerobic digestion feasible for small and medium dairy farms, connects us with our community, and gives our farm a future.
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Ann Hoogenboom is Cabot’s Sustainability Coordinator and gets to share the latest and greatest in sustainability news from our farm families. As a Vermont native and lover of all things green, she’s proud of the socially responsible business role that Cabot plays for our cows, our creamery, our community and our customers.