Home / Blogs / Drones & Dairy – A Farm Transformation
September 21, 2023
It was a beautiful summer morning when I pulled into an Amish dairy farm in Pennsylvania. After patiently waiting for an old farm dog to trot out of the driveway, I parked behind the barn and began setting up my camera gear.
Curious dairy cattle in southern Lancaster County
The Alliance’s work has historically focused upstream, to protect our waterways from their source. This particular location was chosen for stream restoration because of a network of farms that surround the impaired Conowingo Creek in southern Lancaster County.
I assembled my drone, and with an audience of wonderstruck Amish children, I flew to about 150 feet and veered toward the stream restoration project. I was in awe at how beautiful the stream looked from above. It’s not often that you see a vibrant, crystal-clear stream snaking its way through a dairy farm.
A birds-eye view of the stream and buffer separating it from the cows
The project was a result of over three years of collaboration between the farmer and project team, made up of local conservation partners including Lancaster County Conservation District, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Donegal Trout Unlimited. With funding from PA DEP, the team was able to regrade denuded and eroded streambanks, install fencing and in-stream best management practices, and plant native trees and shrubs as a 35-foot buffer.
After walking down to the stream on foot, it was undeniable that the ecosystem was already reaping the benefits of the work done months prior. Red-winged blackbirds darted in and out of the hundreds of young trees lining the banks, smallmouth bass and rainbow trout held in the eddies created by the new structures, frogs and crayfish fled from the shallows into the undercut banks, and blue heron and osprey even flew above to stalk their next meal.
A frog enjoying the cool waters of Conowingo Creek
Hundreds of young trees lining the banks
Not only was the local wildlife population rebounding, but the cow herd was healthier from staying out of the creek. The farmer is also better able to manage runoff from the barnyard. Project success goes beyond this site, to connect two neighboring farms with improved farm management practices and protected streams. The benefits are enjoyed by all who live locally and downstream!
When I got home and began the post-production process, the difference between the before and after drone footage was night and day. After double-checking to make sure that the shots were really from the same location, I pieced together a story that displayed the incredible transition, featured the individuals and organizations that made it happen, and even showcased some of the beautiful nature that has directly benefited.
A before and after drone shot of the stream
Check out the Video Below!