Not only are we celebrating Agriculture as part of our 50 stories for our 50th in June, but it’s also National Dairy Month! Our Agriculture program focuses on partnering with agro-businesses and farmers to help them access and leverage resources that allow our farming communities to enhance planning efforts and implement agriculture best management practices across their productive lands.

In April, the Alliance hosted an event with the American Dairy Association North East (ADANE)  titled, “Your Local Dairy Farmers, A Sustainable Story,” where our CEO, Kate Fritz, and the Director of Environmental Outreach at ADANE, Ron Ohrel, interviewed three local farmers.

ADANE represents the 10,000 dairy farm families in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Northern Virginia – so much of the bay watershed. Only 2 percent of our population has direct experience on a farm of any kind, and that’s part of what ADANE does. They work to connect the non-farming public to your local dairy farms and help share the dairy farming story.

The farmers interviewed included Mike McMahon from E-Z Acres Farm, Chris & Laura Landis with Worth the Wait Farm, and Katie Dotterer-Pyle with the Cow Comfort Inn. Each farmer shared their sustainable farming stories.

In Homer, New York, Mike’s farm is 70 percent in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and 30 percent is one of the finger lake watersheds that provides unfiltered drinking water to the city of Syracuse. The farm is located over a sole source aquifer that provides all the water to Homer and the city of Cortland and two protected trout streams running through the property. “Many opportunities to make life miserable for a lot of people if we don’t do things right and be good stewards to the land,” Mike explains.

Being the oldest farmer of the crew, Mike explained that he feels optimistic for the future of farming and sustainability. “In the 90s, soil and water conservation district and NRCS implemented the AEM program- 5 tier system. Take inventory of your farm and identify where your environmental issues are and then implement the changes you feel would accomplish what we are after. We’ve seen excellent results from that.” Mike feels passionate about not wanting to leave any impact on his neighbors. “We have an impact further down, but first and foremost, we don’t want to cause problems for the nearby neighbors- we do the best we can, and that’s the reason we began taking samples from wells.”

Similar to Mike, the Landis’ feel optimistic for the future of sustainable farming because of the increase in education and knowledge in the field. “Increase in understanding that everyone is involved in pollution and now there is an increased mutual agreement that we need to work together and not point fingers at one industry.” The Landis’ at Worth the Wait Farm are the sixth generation on their farmland, but the first generation of farmers to implement a no-till farming practice. Chris and Laura Landis say they are passionate about sustainability for their kids and hope to leave the land the same or better than they found it for the next generation.

Katie Dotterer-Pyle from Cow Comfort Inn’s slogan is “Ask Farmers, not Google,” she’s a firm believer in educating the general public about farming and trying to get people to stop pointing fingers at farms as the primary source of pollution to our waterways. Cow Comfort Inn, located in Union Bridge, Maryland, is home to roughly 420 cows. It has a creek that runs behind the farm that goes into the Monocacy River, which then goes into the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Katie is grateful for the funding to put environmental practices on her farm to help avoid polluting the bay. She feels optimistic for the future because of this funding available, the continued relationship growth between state and local agencies, and the growing awareness.

Over 40 percent of the nitrogen pollution into the Chesapeake Bay is coming from Agriculture lands from New York down to Virginia. With over 18 million people who live, work, play, and eat in the Chesapeake, we must seek to assist our local food producers in making improvements to their lands that will improve the water quality of our local streams that eventually run into the Chesapeake Bay. The Alliance believes that our local farmers are a big part of the solution for a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, now and in the next 50 years.

Watch the full video from the Facebook Live event here: