HADLEY, Mass. — A Massachusetts farm family is sharing a major award with Cabot Creamery Cooperative for taking a closed-loop approach to recycling cow manure and food scraps.
During a May ceremony in Chicago, representatives from Cabot and Barstow’s Longview Farm shared the honors for Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability, given by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy at its fifth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards.
The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose sustainable practices have a positive impact on consumers, farm animals and the environment.
Cabot was selected for its Real Farm Power program, the latest in a series of sustainability projects pioneered by the 1,200 farm member Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative, owner of Cabot.
Real Farm Power recycles cow manure, food scraps and food processing byproducts to produce renewable energy at Barstow’s Longview Farm in Hadley, Mass.
“On behalf of the whole Barstow family, we are honored to be a part of this achievement,” said Kelly Barstow, co-manager of the on-farm dairy store and bakery at Barstow’s.
Barstow’s Longview Farm was established in 1806, first as a sawmill that produced barrels. The family always had cows and eventually added crops, such as asparagus and tobacco. When the farm became a dairy, the Barstows grew crops only to feed their herd.
The farm is still a family-run farm and business. A store and bakery opened in 2008 and employs about a dozen people.
In 2013, the Barstows installed a methane digester, which allowed them to produce electricity at the farm. A year later, they added four robotic milkers and are adding a fifth this year. Next year, they will install a robotic calf feeding system, Kelly Barstow said.
“‘Looking Forward Since 1806’ is our mission statement,” she said. “We believe that it’s important to continue moving forward with the latest technologies to help with dairy sustainability practices.”
David Barstow, who co-manages the farm, became interested in anaerobic digestion around 2005. The Barstows’ digester allows them to collect source-separated organics and scraps from Cabot farms and other partners, such as Geissler’s supermarkets.
At the Barstow’s Longview Farm, the organic material is put into the anaerobic digester, which blends it with the farm’s cow manure and food processing byproducts from dairy processing, citrus processing, vegetable canning, breweries, sugar production and more.
In partnership with Vanguard Renewables, the energy produced by the anaerobic digester is sent in the form of energy credits to the Cabot facility in West Springfield, Mass., where the farm’s milk is processed. It offsets all the energy needed to make Cabot butter.
Cabot claims Real Farm Power reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 5,680 tons annually while generating 2,200 megawatt hours of clean, renewable energy per year to offset the power needed to make Cabot butter. The $2.8 million project is expected to have a six-year payback, and it offers a blueprint for scaling anaerobic digester technology to small- and medium-sized dairy farms.
“Every year in the U.S., it’s estimated that up to 40 percent of all the food produced is thrown away; that’s 133 billion pounds of food,” said Jed Davis, sustainability director at Cabot Creamery Cooperative, in a press release. “In partnerships with our farmers, we’ve found a way to keep resources, like food byproducts, in a continuous cycle of re-use for as long as possible toward a goal of zero waste to landfill.”
Of the work performed at Barstow’s Longview, Davis said, “This process is the ultimate closed-loop recycling model; the food waste from the grocery store goes to Barstow’s Farm and is converted into power and natural fertilizer to make more food that ultimately returns to the grocery store, completing a full-circle cycle.”
Barstow’s Longview Farm receives 14,000 tons of organic food waste each year from 15 different food companies, according to information from Cabot. The farm’s carbon footprint reduction is 5,680 tons per year, which more than offsets their emissions.
“We use the excess heat from the engine portion of the digester to heat two of the homes on the farm and we’re working to heat more homes with the excess heat,” Kelly Barstow said. “The liquid digestate that is left over after we extract the gas is used to fertilize our 400 acres of crops. The digestate is rich in nutrient and we have noticed an increased crop yields.
“Every expansion we make on our farm moving forward is made with the sustainability and future of our dairy farm and the planet in mind,” she said.
Leon Thompson is a freelance writer in Vermont. He can be reached at email@example.com.