BY GAIL BARNES
According to the headline on Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) CEO Tom Gallagher’s Linkedin post today, “big agriculture gets its sh*t together”. It was a headline designed to catch one’s attention, and it worked!
In the article, Tom Gallagher says: “We’ve always challenged society’s assumption that large farms can’t be good and have worked as an industry to innovate and advance sustainable practices. Today, Fortune released an article that helps elevate those efforts. This is an important spotlight on the strides we’re making and we should all be proud of our accomplishments as a dairy community.”
The article is about Fair Oaks Farms, a well-known mid-west regional tourist attraction and popular field trip destination that promotes the importance of sustainable farming. Facility tours give visitors an opportunity to see cows being milked, calves being born, and artisan cheeses being produced.
The article says: “Many people expect the worst when they think of big agriculture, and sometimes with good reason. Industrial-scale farming practices have made food cheaper and more abundant than ever before, but they have also contributed to pollution, resource shortages, and unhealthy eating habits. Some consumers now have an inherent bias against ‘big’ when it comes to what they eat, using it as shorthand for all that’s wrong with our food system. In part because of such sentiment, the 25 biggest food and beverage companies in 2009 have since lost the equivalent of $18bn in market share, according to Robert Moskow of Credit Suisse.”
The article continues: “Fair Oaks is challenging the assumption that big can’t be good. It’s because the 12 family-run dairies that make up Fair Oaks have 36,000 cows (only 1% of US dairy farms have 2,500 or more) that it’s economically viable for McCloskey, his wife, Sue, and their partners to convert manure into fuel that runs their farms and powers a fleet of trucks.”
One of the most important chapters in Fair Oaks Farms’ sustainable farming story is their compressed natural gas (CNG)-fuelled milk hauling fleet. At an historic event on March 4, 2013, AMP Americas, Fair Oaks Farms, Greater Indiana Clean Cities and the Indiana Office of Energy Development celebrated the grand opening of AMP Americas’ renewable CNG, I65/I75 Corridor at Fair Oaks Farms.
Fuelled by the dairy’s waste from 11,000 head of cattle, the system pulls biogas from the digester that is then cleaned and odorised to be compressed and dispensed at the station, ready to provide CNG fuel on demand to their 42, Class 8 milk transports.
While this large-scale CNG transportation solution is an important step in the US effort to create an increasingly sustainable supply chain, and reduce the independence on imported oil, the way the tractors will be used is just as noteworthy: 42 tractors virtually run around the clock in a milk-hauling relay operation designed to squeeze maximum productivity from the equipment.
Commenting at the time of the CNG coridor grand opening, Dr Mike McCloskey, president and owner, Fair Oaks Farms said: “This will change American history.”
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