• WisBusiness

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dairy farmers launch statewide sustainability initiative

By MaryBeth Matzek

On a sunny, warm day this summer, Jamie Patton couldn’t wait to climb into a soil pit to examine the soil on Mark Schmidt’s dairy farm in Casco.

Patton, a soils agent with UW-Extension in Shawano County, was a main presenter at a field day on cover crops sponsored by Peninsula Pride Farms, the farmer-led environmental stewardship coalition. Peninsula Pride brings together the agriculture community, university researchers and scientists to develop solutions to meet the water quality challenges in Kewaunee and southern Door counties. Member farms range in size from 66 cows to 6,000 cows.

Peninsula Pride Farms is one of two “milksheds” already in place in Wisconsin that the newly-formed Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance hopes to build on.

The roots for the organization go back to January’s Dairy Strong conference in Madison, where Yahara Pride Farms participants shared their sustainability initiatives. Members of the dairy supply chain, from producers to manufacturers, began thinking about ways of getting that statewide, and the Dairy Business Association then helped get the organization of the ground.

“This is truly an alliance and we are all collaborators in this initiative,” said Maria Woldt, the DSSA’s sustainability lead and director of industry relations for the DBA.

The heart of DSSA’s mission is to drive innovation and collaboration in sustainability initiatives across Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Woldt said the DSSA is looking to show tangible continuous improvements in the areas of land use, soil conservation, nutrient management, water quality and use, energy use, animal welfare, food safety, greenhouse emissions, economic health and social responsibility. Collecting data is an important part of that process.

DSSA participants include producers of all sizes, processors, vendors, transporters, conservation groups, consumer packaged goods companies, retailers, government agencies, universities and dairy and trade non-profit organizations. Woldt said it was vital to have all players in the milk supply chain involved.

“Everyone, whether it’s producers, manufacturers or vendors, has sustainability and improvement programs in place and it will be great to share that information and let everyone learn from each other,” she said.

“Milksheds” describes all aspects of the dairy supply chain within a watershed or given area, Woldt said. Milkshed participants from a given area include farms, logistics, service providers, processors and transportation providers. Peninsula Pride Farms and Yahara Pride Farms are the first two milksheds under development, said Woldt, adding that organizers are looking to fill in the missing pieces, such as finding a milk processor.

Field days -- like the one at Schmidt’s farm -- are a vital part of sharing information among farmers to improve their sustainability initiatives, said Nathen Nysse of Tilth Agronomy.
“Cover crops are very important because it promotes soil health, increased water holding capacity, they build and retain nutrients and prevent erosion,” said Nysse, who helped organize the event.

New JA program: Junior Achievement of Wisconsin-Winnebago Region is looking to encourage more young women to pursue careers in the maritime and water ways industries.

On Oct. 6, local businesses and high schools will team up to bring female students to the JA Women on the Water event at Anchor Point Marina in Fremont. Panelists from Mercury Marine, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, Anchor Point Marina and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will talk to students about their education and work experience. The students will also be able to ask questions and learn more about the various professions.

Ski area expansion? Owners of Granite Peak ski area at Rib Mountain in Waupaca say they will announce formal plans to expand the facility, which is on rented land from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, by the end of October. Preliminary proposals include building a ski-in hotel at the base of the mountain, adding more than a dozen beginner and intermediate ski runs and building new ski lifts.

Granite Peak is owned by Charles Skinner, who announced last year he wanted to spend $50 million to expand the ski area so it could stay competitive with other ski areas.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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