Dairy Farms and Businesses Are Changing the Equation for Sustainable Business Practices

  • 6 min read May 8, 2015

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced the winners of the fourth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards on May 7, 2015, at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. The program recognizes outstanding dairy farms, businesses and partnerships for practices large and small that not only focus on the environment, but add up to promote the health and well-being of consumers, communities, cows, employees, the planet and business.

“This year’s award winners truly are changing the equation for what the industry and consumers think about sustainability,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center. “Each winner has a unique commitment to sustainability that has strengthened their connections with their communities, ensured the stability of the waterways and wildlife surrounding their properties, and blazed new trails for other dairy farms and businesses to follow.”

Sustainable practices recognized this year range from water conservation and recovery of food waste to a community-based program that increases access to fresh milk for families in need.

The winners were selected based on results as measured by economic, environmental and community impact, also known as triple-bottom-line success. An independent panel of judges — which included experts working with and through the dairy industry — also assessed the potential for adoption by others, demonstrated learning, innovation, improvement and scalability.

“To continue to pass their farms and companies down to the next generation, this year’s award winners have done an excellent job improving upon best practices and serving their communities,” said Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairy farmer, member of the judging panel and chair of Dairy Management Inc. “I am excited to share their successes so they can easily be adopted by others in the industry.”

The 2015 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards winners are:

Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship

Freund’s Farm, East Canaan, Connecticut — Freund’s Farm has created a successful side business selling CowPots®, biodegradable gardening containers made of composted manure from their herd of 275 dairy cows. Through CowPots, they are reducing phosphorus buildup in their soil, employing 11 full-time and 15 seasonal personnel, and investing $2 million back into the local community. Their commitment does not end there. The farm’s solar panel system produces 100 percent of its electricity needs.

Honorable Mention: T-Bar Dairy and White Gold Dairy, Porterville, California — Tom Barcellos was the first dairy farmer in drought-ridden Central Valley, California, to successfully implement conservation tillage. A combination of no-till and strip-till methods have helped Barcellos manage for water scarcity while allowing him to reduce chemical use, fuel use and the amount of dust particles in the air.

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability

Dorrich Dairy, Glenwood, Minnesota — The Vold family dramatically reduced chemical insecticides to control flies — and reduced fly control costs by 85 percent — when they introduced wasp larvae. This is one part of an integrated pest management system and overall commitment to cow health that contributes to making their operation financially strong and environmentally sound, now and for future generations.

Nobis Dairy Farms, St. Johns, Michigan — The Nobis brothers take pride in their practical approach to sustainable practices on their farm. For example, when they transitioned to sand bedding for cow comfort and health in 1974, they had to figure out how to clean and separate the sand from manure. Today, the system they have in place, thanks to research from Michigan State University and McLanahan Corporation, not only solves the problem of sand-laden manure, but it also maximizes nutrient management and eliminates excessive use of fresh water.

Oregon Dairy Farm, Lititz, Pennsylvania — In a sustainability meets farm-to-fork experience, the Hurst family composts food waste along with cow manure to produce a rich source of nutrients sold to gardeners; runs solar panels on their grocery store roof to provide 10 percent of the store’s electricity needs; and operates an anaerobic digester that helps capture methane gas from manure to make electricity and heat for hot water.

Honorable Mention: Alliance Dairies, Trenton, Florida — Situated in the highly sensitive Suwannee River Basin and Manatee Springs region, Alliance Dairies has a comprehensive water management plan that led the dairy to install a first-of-its kind methane digester specifically designed for a freestall barn flush system. As a result, Alliance Dairies is not only protecting the community’s water quality, but it is generating electricity for the community’s use, too.

Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability

Hilmar Cheese Company, Hilmar, California — Though Hilmar Cheese Company makes about 2 million pounds of cheese each day, the company is able to recover almost 100 percent of water from incoming milk. Then, the water is treated at the plant and used up to three times for processes such as crop irrigation and landscaping. Water reclamation is just one part of a comprehensive sustainability effort. Hilmar Cheese Company’s new headquarters and innovation center was the first dairy building in the nation to receive LEED® Platinum certification.

Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships

HP Hood LLC and CleanWorld, Sacramento, California — HP Hood LLC and CleanWorld found a way to collect and combine HP Hood’s 35 tons per week of waste with food waste from dozens of local restaurants and retailers in a nearby biodigester. The biodigester converts the waste into valuable products for their urban and agricultural neighbors. These products include renewable fuel to power public and private fleets of trucks, rich liquid fertilizer for nearby farms, and power for the digester and local waste management facilities.

Honorable Mention: Northern Illinois Food Bank and Prairie Farms Dairy, Geneva, Illinois — This food bank and dairy partnered to create the Milk 2 My Plate program, which ensures a fresh supply of milk is available to the families who rely on the food pantry to make ends meet. The community-based program serves as a model for food banks across the country. So far, it has distributed more than 194,000 gallons of milk — 3.1 million servings — to 34 food pantries in the network.

About the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment and Awards program

The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment and the Sustainability Awards program are supported by gold- and silver-level sponsors. This year’s gold-level sponsors are: the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, DeLaval, DVO, Inc., Elanco Animal Health, InSinkErator, Tetra Pak, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, World Wildlife Fund and Zoetis. Silver-level sponsors are: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ChemTreat, DSM Nutritional Products, HDR, Inc., McDonald’s Corporation and Syngenta.

The awards program is part of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment, an industrywide effort to measure and improve the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the dairy industry. To learn more about the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, the winners and the best practices in place at their operations, visit DairyGood.org.


Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® is a forum for the dairy industry to work together pre-competitively to address barriers and opportunities to foster innovation and increase sales. The Innovation Center aligns the collective resources of the industry to offer consumers nutritious dairy products and ingredients, and promote the health of people, communities, the planet and the industry. The Board of Directors for the Innovation Center includes dairy industry leaders representing key farmer organizations, dairy cooperatives, companies, manufacturers and brands. The Innovation Center is staffed by Dairy Management Inc. Visit USDairy.com for more information about the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.