SALISBURY, Vt. — Goodrich Farm has been recognized with a 2021 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability. The farm was one of three farms chosen nationally to receive the award and was selected for its many sustainable initiatives including its role in a unique regional partnership to create renewable energy, recycle food waste, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the creation of one of the largest on-farm anaerobic digesters in the U.S.
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced its tenth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards on June 14. The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses, and partnerships whose sustainable practices positively impact the health and well-being of consumers, communities, animals, and the environment.
Goodrich Farm is leading the way in New England. Alongside its partners, the farm launched a 1.32-million-gallon anaerobic digester in 2020 that can produce 180,000 Mcf of renewable natural gas annually. This partnership brings together Goodrich Farm, which hosts the digester, Vanguard Renewables, developer, owner, and operator of the digester, Vermont Gas Systems, and Middlebury College, which will purchase much of the renewable natural gas produced at the digester.
At the anaerobic digester, methane-emitting cow manure and food waste are recycled into carbon-negative renewable natural gas (RNG). The RNG travels by pipeline to Middlebury College’s nearby power plant, bringing the college closer to reaching its 10-year goal to power the campus with 100 percent renewable energy.
“As a part of the agricultural community, we’ve done better in Vermont at showing the public the work we’re putting in. We want to be good stewards of the land, we want to implement good practices,” explained Chase Goodrich. “We want our neighbors to see we’re making a great quality product in a responsible way.”
Managed by siblings Chase and Danielle Goodrich, Goodrich Farm is a multi-generational dairy farm in Addison County milking 900 cows while caring for more than 2,000 acres of land. The farm is one of 750 dairy farm families who are members of the Agri-Mark dairy cooperative, owner of Cabot Creamery Cooperative. The family started farming on their current land in 1956 with just ten cows.
More than a decade in the works, the anaerobic digester provides the farm with a new diversified income stream in addition to high-quality, low carbon liquid fertilizer, animal bedding, and a reduction in their farm’s carbon footprint. In addition, the Farm Powered anaerobic digester facility features the first phosphorus removal system in Vermont which protects the Otter Creek Watershed that feeds into Lake Champlain; one of the largest freshwater lakes in the U.S.
Dairy farming is at the heart of New England’s pastoral landscape. New England dairy farmers currently produce about 45% of the dairy consumed in the region, according to USDA data. In order to provide dairy products for an estimated 17 million New Englanders by 2060, Food Solutions New England estimates there would need to be 600,000 milking cows, roughly doubling present dairy production.
The anaerobic digester at Goodrich Farm is also helping Vermont meet its universal recycling law which bans food waste from entering landfills, and achieve the goal of a 75% reduction in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In Vermont, food scraps make up roughly 30 percent of a family’s waste, and that amount can be more than 50 percent for businesses and restaurants. Reducing food waste is one of the most impactful ways to lessen the effects of climate change.
“Dairy farms like ours all across the country are putting into place new green practices and technologies to meet the aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals set by our individual states, co-operatives, and the dairy industry,” Chase said.
The US dairy industry is working to achieve a new set of 2050 voluntary goals aimed at becoming carbon neutral or better, maximizing water use while increasing recycling, and improving water quality through the use of manure and nutrients.
“This award is humbling because we’re just doing what we love to do,” added Danielle Goodrich. “Our whole goal is to be sustainable and viable and carry on the tradition of farming in Vermont. To be a part of the climate solution means a lot. I know our grandfather would be proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Goodrich Farm will be recognized at the Fall meeting of the Dairy Sustainability Alliance.
–New England Dairy
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