The Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership has earned the Innovation Center for US Dairy’s 2020 Sustainability Award. The award recognizes U.S. dairy farms, businesses, and collaborative partnerships performing innovative work in providing environmental, social, and economic benefits as leaders in taking care of people, animals, and the planet.

The Partnership is honored to receive national recognition for its work improving rivers and streams of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed on more than 150 dairy farms in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and surrounding counties. The Partnership comprises Turkey Hill Dairy, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Alliance), and Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative (MDVA).

A group of young dairy cows (heifers) in a pasture on an MDVA member farm. Photo credit: MDVA.

To date, thanks to the Partnership, the following amount of pollution has been kept out of local streams and rivers:

  • 421,327.5 lbs/yr of nitrogen
  • 7,198.3 lbs/yr of phosphorus
  • 2,920.9 tons/yr of sediment

In the words of the Partnership’s promotional materials, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for clean streams!” The play on the beloved ice cream song says it all. From the farm to the ice cream carton, Turkey Hill’s supply chain cares about local waterways, and they are actively doing all that they can to improve river and stream health.

July 19th is National Ice Cream Day, a time to celebrate ice cream and the accomplishments of the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership.

The Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership was formed in 2018 to provide a mechanism and economic support for all MDVA member farmers supplying milk to Turkey Hill Dairy to implement the conservation practices necessary for protecting local water quality. Since its inception, the Partnership has funded conservation work on 42 farms in Lancaster County, PA and the surrounding areas. Currently 96% of the farms supplying milk to Turkey Hill Dairy have an updated conservation plan or are in the process of receiving an updated plan, while the average for Lancaster County remains around 50%.

The Partnership sought funding to fuel the initiative and thus far, we have garnered over $2 million in grants from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support on-farm conservation efforts. Through the Partnership, we have also helped farmers utilize over $2 million in support from PENNVEST. This economic support is critical to achieving conservation goals given today’s struggling dairy economy.

Grant funding pays 100 percent of the cost for farms to develop conservation plans ‒ which can cost $1,500 or more ‒ and provides up to 75 percent cost-share assistance for conservation practice implementation. Once farmers implement all practices prescribed in their conservation plans, they receive a premium for their milk.

This photo shows a manure storage facility on a MDVA member farm. These structures are just one of the many conservation practices the THCWP helps fund. They protect water quality by storing animal waste in a controlled space, preventing it from running into streams, and allowing the farmer to apply it to crop fields less frequently. Photo credit: MDVA.

Like many businesses, dairy farms are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial backing and resources provided by the Partnership has helped dairy farmers pay for environmental improvements they may not have otherwise been able to afford. These projects make farms more sustainable on multiple levels and have a positive, long-lasting impact on local rivers and streams.

“Through the THCWP we have been able to bring the technical expertise and financial resources directly to the farm to help them implement conservation practices” said Lindsay Reames, Director of Sustainability & External Relations for Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative. “We are able to make connections with local, state and national resources to help cover the costs incurred and accelerate the adoption of conservation practices. The streamlined process and the commitment of funds to projects has made for seamless adoption on farms. Each farm has their own approach to sustainability and together through the THCWP we have been able to assist farms in reaching their sustainability goals. These goals not only improve their own operations but also improve the overall impact of dairy in their communities.”

So don’t forget to raise a cone (or dish, if you prefer) of Turkey Hill ice cream this National Ice Cream Day in celebration of the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership’s Innovation Center for US Dairy’s 2020 Sustainability Award. Know that with every scoop, the farmers and the Partnership are working together to improve the land and the waterways of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

Photo credit: Turkey Hill Dairy