Van Slyke's Dairy Farm of Portageville, N.Y., will be honored today at the New York Ag Leadership Luncheon, held at Empire Farm Days, near Seneca Falls, N.Y. The sixth-generation dairy family will receive the prestigious 2010 New York Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) Award.
The award, presented by NYS Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker, recognizes exemplary environmental stewardship and conservation innovation on New York farms. Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District also will be recognized for years of assisting the Van Slyke families in reaching their goals. This year's recognition is the 17th annual prize sponsored by the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, Empire State Potato Growers and American Agriculturist.
"The Van Slykes have demonstrated a major commitment to environmental stewardship by implementing a complete systems approach to conservation on their progressive dairy farm," says Commissioner Hooker. Their early involvement in the Agricultural Environmental Management program enabled them to continually evaluate their comprehensive nutrient management plan and conservation practices.
"Those practices ensure their effectiveness and coordination within the farm's business objectives," he adds. "The Van Slykes, as well as the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District, are stellar examples of leaders in the agricultural industry. I congratulate them on their achievements."
When brothers Gary and Greg Van Slyke assumed sixth-generation control of Van Slyke's Dairy Farm, it was a growing business based on black and white profitability. And it worked! The Portageville, N.Y., farm now milks 1,200 Holsteins and farms 2,000 acres.
Today, their seventh-generation is assuming command. Tammy Andrews, oldest daughter of Greg and Connie, runs the office and herd health sides of the business. Ken, youngest son of Gary and Virginia, is the farm manager. Together, this Wyoming County family is charting an environmentally sustainable course toward greater profitability with 1,200 Holstein cows plus replacement animals on 2,000 acres.
Conservation efforts such as strip cropping, minimum tillage and cover cropping were put in place long ago. The resulting high yields enable the to supplies forages for close to 900 dairy animals on other farms.
The farm was one of New York's first to complete its concentrated animal feeding operation plan and the state's Ag Environmental Management plans. Installing a covered manure plus other changes, "reduced overall manure volume applied to cropland by 30%," estimates Ken.
Manure solids are separated and continuously composts materials with the recycled materials destined for freestall barn bedding or used as crop fertility for this farm or exported to other farms. Or they are fully composted and marketed under the Bessie's Best trademark.
This dairy was the 11th herd to be a certified animal welfare farm under the NYS Cattle Health Assurance Program. Family members have been outspoken advocates for the industry on animal welfare.