Twin Birch Dairy of Skaneateles, N.Y., has been named a U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winner by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy for its environmental stewardship in the Finger Lakes Region.
“We’re pleased to share that one of our local dairy farms is being recognized for the good work they do to protect the environment while producing high quality milk,” says Rick Naczi, CEO of American Dairy Association North East. “It’s critical to their business and to the industry’s image to make sustainability a priority, which pays dividends within their local communities.”
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, established under the leadership of dairy farmers and dairy industry companies, developed the awards to recognize dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet.
Twin Birch Dairy, owned by Dirk Young, Todd Evans and Jeremy Brown, were winners in the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability category that recognizes leaders in socially responsible, economically viable and environmentally sound dairy production, and who exemplify a longstanding commitment to continuous improvement.
Twin Birch Dairy is located in an environmentally sensitive area between the Skaneateles and Owasco lakes, with a neighboring country club and million-dollar lakefront homes. The two watersheds supply drinking water to more than 400,000 people in central New York’s two largest cities — Syracuse and Auburn — and the surrounding areas.
Young, Evans and Brown have been diligent in implementing on-farm practices that protect the surrounding water for drinking and recreation.
Focus on water quality
Twin Birch Dairy has been involved in a water monitoring study conducted by the Owasco Watershed Lake Association, a community organization focused on identifying strategies to restore and improve water quality and provide community education to protect the lake.
Results show that the dairy’s environmental practices are having a significant effect on the lake’s water quality, showing that water quality immediately downstream of the farm was generally equal to, if not slightly better, than the upstream water quality.
WATER-QUALITY FOCUS: Twin Birch Dairy has implemented many on-farm practices to help improve water quality in two of the state’s Finger Lakes.
“I have never been afraid of following the science and coming up with solutions,” Young says. “We also live in this community and want and need the respect of the whole area to truly be successful.”
Years of innovation
Innovative practices were established more than 20 years ago shortly after the herd size doubled for the second time in a decade. A remote manure storage was built to reduce odor, and a solids-separator was added to remove manure solids to use as bedding — the liquid went to the storage.
In 2003, Twin Birch Dairy was one of the first farms to install an anaerobic digester in the state and continues to have the only one operating in Onondaga County. The digester’s environmental benefits are two-fold: energy production and recycling for bedding, into the land as fertilizer or sold to local landscapers.
ADA North East worked with the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program to nominate Twin Birch Dairy for the award.
“Per the city of Syracuse’s Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program, Twin Birch Dairy leads by example and sets the bar higher for environmental goals, herd health and community relations,” says Mark Burger, program manager.