Q&A With Lindsay Reames, VP, Sustainability & External Relations, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative

This article was written by Nate Birt, Vice President of Trust In Food, a Farm Journal initiative. Learn more at www.trustinfood.com

A dairy farmer-centered approach to sustainability is unlocking new economic opportunities for family operations from New York to Georgia while pushing the envelope of what’s possible from conservation partnership programs.
One such program—a joint effort of the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative, Turkey Hill Dairy and The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay—earned the 2020 Outstanding Supply Chain Collaboration Award  from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Learn More about the 2020 Winners

What began in 2018 with support from a $250,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has grown rapidly into more than $7 million in outside funding helping many of the cooperative’s 900-plus farm families averaging 125 cows each across 13 states continue adopting best management practices.

“To me, that’s the most exciting thing, because when you actually see new manure storage going in, when you see a stabilized barnyard for that farm, that could be there for the next 50 years,” explains Lindsay Reames, vice president of sustainability and external relations for the cooperative in a video interview  with Farm Journal’s Trust In Food. “It’s not only going to help with their runoff and improving the overall environment, it’s going to help with the long-term profitability of that operation when we’re able to bring that level of investment to the farm.”

Eighty-seven percent of the cooperative’s farms operate within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the largest estuary in North America and a water body that’s been deemed a National Treasure—so public and governmental scrutiny is especially top of mind for dairies. Partnerships such as this one present an opportunity to help dairy farmers further integrate sustainability into their businesses, which has changed the nature of dialogue about sustainability in the region.

“It’s really easy to have that conversation when you’re coming with resources and coming with solutions,” Reames says. “It’s a completely different conversation when you can come and say, ‘We have $60,000 to support you and your farm. How can we make you more sustainable?’ Rather than coming in and saying, ‘You have to do this, and you have six months.’”

Now, the cooperative and its partners in this program and others like it are using sustainability as a starting point for conversations about dairies’ plans for business growth and the future of the industry.

Learn more about sustainability trends and opportunities for eastern U.S. dairies in the attached video interview with Reames.

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