Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership Shares Our Message of Innovation at the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Annual Meeting

Holding an annual meeting for the National Association of Conservation Districts in Las Vegas may seem unusual, until you attend. Then it makes sense. Vegas is easy to travel to from all over the United States, which made the event a great opportunity for us to share the innovative work we are doing, in partnership with Turkey Hill Dairy and the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association with the rest of our Country. The ultimate goal of the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership (THCWP) is to accelerate the rate of restoration of Lancaster’s waterways, while demonstrating the positive impact of innovative cross-sector collaborations.

The theme of NACD’s 74th Annual Meeting is Conservation Innovation: Working from the Roots Up, highlighting diverse and innovative moving on-the-ground efforts into action.

The 6-day event hosted over 900 conservation professionals from around the United States. The Alliance attended to participate in the Conservation Innovation Expo and to share our THCWP story with a large community of conservation professionals with various expertise and backgrounds.

Sunday found us at the Conservation Innovation Expo, where we had a large table display signaling to attendees to visit our table and learn more. The big Turkey Hill Cow even drove into Vegas to help support this important work! And of course, discussions of partnership and innovating new approaches are best had over a sampling of delicious Turkey Hill ice cream.

We met farmers and Soil Conservation District leadership from Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia, Louisiana, and many other states, who kept encouraging us to “keep it up” in the Chesapeake. Our watershed is held in high regard with the other rivers and streams of our Country, and we are looked to as a model on how to move the needle on cleaner water in a way that benefits the farming community. This was a great reminder for us that our work is not done, and that we, the movement, need to continue to act like role models in this restoration effort.

On Monday, Jenna Mitchell, the Alliance’s Pennsylvania State Director, and Andrea Nikolaus, Turkey Hill Dairy’s Public Relations & Digital Coordinator, participated on a panel called “Powering Innovation at the Landscape Scale.” They were joined on the panel by Jason Weller, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, and Lexi Clark, Program Manager, from the non-profit organization, Field to Market. All presentations focused on a new way of doing “business as usual,” and educated over 70 attendees on how they’re innovating the future in order to keep agriculture sustainable for future generations.

Panel discussion for the “Powering Innovation at the Landscape Scale” session.

At the conclusion of the panel, the moderator took questions from the audience. A farmer from Wisconsin expressed his concern over the accelerating loss of dairy farms in his community, and inquired about the dairy industry in Pennsylvania and this model’s link to keeping this industry viable. Jenna and Andrea both echoed that consumers are demanding a higher level of responsibility from businesses for their impact on the natural environment. Consumers are driving the food market by asking more and more for products that they feel good about – those companies that seek to be an active part of the solution in our food systems. One of the greatest assets a company has is its brand, and aligning on-the-ground practices with a company partner who is helping them get there is a big focus of our Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership.

When life gives you the opportunity to be in Las Vegas for 48 hours, you do not turn it down. Especially if you can mingle among the premier soil nerds in the Country, and learn of new resources to bring back to your community. The one thing I can’t promise is that what I learned in Vegas will stay in Vegas – it seems too important not to share.