What’s the secret to winning the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award? For Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon, it’s putting sustainability and its animals first.
“We’re major recyclers,” said former General Manager Marty Myers, explaining how their dairy fits into operations at the farm. “Whatever we create, we utilize.”
Manure provided by the 30,000 milking cows at the dairy is an essential part of the farm’s closed loop system. By recycling the waste and water from it’s dairy into essential nutrients for crops, the farm has grown from 200 acres of organic farming in 2002 to over 15,000 acres in 2020.
Animal care is a top priority for all Oregon dairy farmers. In fact, most Oregon dairies offer their farm for voluntary inspections that are science-based and cow-focused to be sure they are providing the best care possible.
At Threemile Canyon Farms, Dr. Mike Paros, an independent animal advocate and veterinarian, also helps provide third-party oversight at the farm. “My main focus is taking the perspective of the animal and do whatever I can to provide the best care for them,” said Paros.
Using water in a sustainable way is another way this farm makes a commitment to the environment. “Water is everything. Without water, there is no farm,” says Greg Harris, Director of Agronomy. By recycling waste water as part of it’s closed loop farming system and using technology to monitor it’s water usage closely, Threemile Canyon Farms helps to preserve the land and aquifers around it.
Click here for more information on Threemile Canyon Farms and other US Dairy Sustainability Award winners.
An Oregon dairy was among the winners of the 2020 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards announced in a presentation by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon, was one of three dairies nationwide – and the only one on the U.S. West Coast – to receive the award for Outstanding Dairy Sustainability.
Threemile Canyon Farms was recognized for demonstrating how growing crops and milking cows can complement one another in a regenerative, closed-loop system, resulting in little to no waste. “We find what traditionally would be considered waste and redeploy that waste to beneficial use,” said Marty Myers, general manager and part owner for Threemile Canyon Farms.
For the past nine years, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy has recognized dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet. Selection involves a rigorous nomination and review process, and the winners serve as a replicable model for best practices that yield economic, environmental and social benefits.
Threemile’s 70,000 Jersey cows are located at the center of the 93,000-acre farm. Practicing precision agriculture, the farm also grows organic blueberries, onions, carrots, potatoes, and corn, as well as a variety of conventional food, feed, and cover crops. Manure from the dairy serves as organic fertilizer for the crops, and the cows consume byproducts from food processing for human consumption that would otherwise go to waste.
Modeling creativity, innovation, and efficiency, their efforts to continuously improve farm practices generate positive results for food safety, air and water quality, animal care, and community benefits. “Our philosophy and approach is continuous improvement, with our team members bringing new ideas to our operations in farming, livestock, and renewable energy,” said Myers.
As an example, Threemile recently partnered with Equilibrium Capital to invest in converting its methane digester from generating electricity to producing clean Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). This process sequesters about 136,000 metric tons of carbon emissions every year. This is the annual equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 28,875 passenger vehicles driven while yielding a beneficial product in the form of RNG. Renewable natural gas used in vehicles reduces fuel emissions by 80 percent or more compared to diesel fuel.
The farm also thinks beyond its borders, voluntarily placing 23,000 acres into a wildlife conservation area and donating 7,000 pounds of ground beef to Farmers Ending Hunger every month. It also supports internships and opportunities for local 4-H and FFA students and other local community projects.
This year’s U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners show how operations of all scope and size are doing their part to make a positive impact on Earth’s resources. Go to usdairy.com/sustainability to learn more about the winners and to see how U.S. dairy adopts conservation practices in sensitive ecosystems, recycles water, produces clean energy and more.
“Threemile Canyon Farms is a highly successful working model of how modern dairy practices can be an environmental solution,” said Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council Executive Director Pete Kent. “To feed not only our own local communities, but growing global populations, we must embrace such efforts as these to care for our natural resources, so we can rely on them continuously to produce our food in the decades ahead.”