The Dairy Farm That Powers Its Neighbors
As a dairy farmer with her husband, Cliff, Andrea Sensenig says their motto for success is, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
The Sensenigs run Compass Farms, a family business going on five generations, thanks to their three young children. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania farm raises crops and is home to a Holstein herd now owned and managed by Cliff’s brother and nephew. Cliff and Andrea also co-own Kilby Cream, a Maryland dairy farm that is known to neighbors for fresh bottled milk and delicious ice cream.
But food isn’t the only thing the Sensenigs provide for their community—Compass Farms is a powerhouse in greenhouse gas reduction efforts. The farm uses a methane digester to turn cows’ poop into electricity for their farm operations. It's just one of the reasons they earned an Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award.
They’re able to power more than 100 homes. Here’s how: Cow, chicken and pig manure is collected in a tank—along with local food waste like old grocery store produce—to activate bacteria that creates gas to generate electricity.
Andrea took a moment to answer a few questions about her busy, cow-powered life:
In one sentence, how would you describe life on a dairy farm?
Life on my dairy farm is busy, stressful, a lot of work, but a ton of fun and very fulfilling.
How do you manage manure on your farm? Where does it go?
Manure is all processed through our digester, where we use the methane gas to power a generator, producing enough electricity to power our farm and home, and over 100 additional homes! After the manure has been through this process, it is stored in a lagoon until it can properly be used as fertilizer on our cropland.
What gets you most excited about dairy?
I am excited to see all the innovations and diversifications dairy farmers make to stay competitive and sustainable in order to maintain our way of life.
When and where are you happiest?
I'm happiest and most content at home being with my family—either relaxing on the porch, hiking through the forest on our farm, riding horses with my girls or dirt bikes with my boy. My second happiest place? Snowmobiling in Maine!