Dairy Farmer Harnesses Nature's Power

4/26/2014 7:00 AM
By Maegan Crandall New York Correspondent

FABIUS, N.Y. — Although Tom Trinder and his family have an extensive background in conventional dairy practices, in 2006 he made the first of several successful — and eco-friendly — decisions that have changed the direction of his farm and his farming practices.

“I watched my father’s health deteriorate. He was big crop sprayer and he sprayed everything, and I watched his lungs deteriorate over time. I don’t have any proof that it was due to sprays, but I do know his health deteriorated. So, I made up my mind that I was not going to farm conventionally. I just gave it up and went to the organic principles, and I’ve been very happy ever since,” said Trinder, owner of Trinder Farm in Fabius, N.Y.

Trinder admits that he had some apprehension about transitioning his herd of 200-plus Holsteins to organic.

“I’ll be honest, it’s scary at first. You’re very apprehensive, but if you do it right and if you practice the true principles of it, it works. I was scared that maybe we couldn’t treat our cows for mastitis and how would we deal with that. I was also concerned with grazing. But in the end, it was very simple for us to do. So, I’m a big believer in the organic endeavor and found the transition very easy,” he said.

Trinder also points out that he is one of the few farmers locally who plants no-till crops on his 400-acre farm.

“Any farm that does not do tillage is sequestering the carbon in the soil. I haven’t tilled in four or five years, so my farm is pretty much carbon dioxide retentive. There is also less erosion if I don’t till, and I keep the carbon dioxide in the ground as opposed to having it escape and cause more pollution,” he said.

His next innovative steps included installing a wind turbine, followed by a robotic milking system, and then investing in 99 solar panels.

The 120-foot-high windmill was installed on a cold January day in 2011 and according to Trinder, the local geography makes it ideal for wind power.

“When it runs and it runs right, it does a great job,” he said.

The solar panels were installed this past fall when the sun’s rays were weakening, so Trinder is still waiting for the summer months to determine their full impact.

“We installed them a certain way so that we can capture the largest amount of energy retention. There are two angles so as the sun moves from east to west, it switches sides and this enables it to capture and use more of the sun’s energy rather than keeping the panels at one stable slant,” he said.

The energy produced from the windmill and the solar panels is sent directly back to the grid, where the electric company, in turn, credits the farm.

While Trinder is still waiting on the final verdict on just how much energy he is saving, he is hopeful and happy with the results so far, and proud that he has reduced his environmental impact.

“I haven’t had a chance to see what the maximum output will be. I would guess under ideal circumstances in a perfect world that I could get as much as 36 percent in savings. The good weather will be coming up in the next three months, that’s when I can see what I can really do with them,” he said.

Trinder also points out that he received a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for the installation of both the windmill and the solar panels, which helped considerably.

Installing a robotic milking system has also had a significant effect on the day-to-day practices of the farm. With the help of the robots, Trinder said he is able to run his farm more efficiently with only minimal help. The energy-efficient system records the production history of each specific cow and calculates the grain amount and type to be given to each cow, and if there are any health issues to address.

Trinder also manages a compost facility that consists of wood chips and manure that he uses for fertilizer.

Even with all the beneficial changes that Trinder has implemented over the last few years and the progress he has attained, he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

“I don’t plan on retiring. I love to work and I feel good so I don’t have any reason to retire. That’s the way I feel about it,” he said.

Trinder Farm ships its milk to Horizon Organic, a decision Trinder said is happy with.

“I’m really very happy with Horizon. They’ve been good to me and I’ve been good to them. They produce a really good product,” he said.

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