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Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership

The Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership sparked from ideas discussed at a Businesses for the Bay Forum in 2016, and is a collaborative effort coordinated by the Alliance, in partnership with Turkey Hill, and Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA). Through the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership, Turkey Hill will take momentous strides towards cleaning up local water quality in the Lancaster area by providing incentives for local dairy farmers to use a conservation plan on their property.

Over 86,000 miles of streams and rivers flow throughout Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, 19,990 miles are considered unhealthy, or impaired.

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miles of unhealthy streams in Pennsylvania

Unhealthy waterways create unsafe living, drinking, and recreation conditions for everyone and everything in their paths. Water-flow and stream levels begin to decline as algae levels intensify. Decreased oxygen levels create inadequate living conditions for aquatic organisms. Therefore, the whole ecosystem, in and around the stream, is impacted.

Of Pennsylvania’s 86,000 miles of streams, 1,400 of those run through Lancaster County, and over half of those stream miles are considered impaired. As a county, Lancaster has more miles of unhealthy streams than any other county in PA. Statistics like these are cause for alarm.

Companies and organizations can also lend a hand, and one local partnership has been formed to meet that need. Turkey Hill Dairy has joined forces with The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association to form the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership. This Partnership has secured 1.5 million dollars to support dairy producers in making positive changes for clean water.

THCWP representatives discussing and looking at examples of a conservation practice at the Graywood Farms dairy operation in Fulton Township. Pictured from left to right are Bob Cooksey, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers; John Cox, president of Turkey Hill Dairy; Jenna Mitchell, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay; Lisa Graybeal, Graywood Farms co-owner; Chris Thompson, Lancaster County Conservation District; and Byron Graybeal, Graywood Farms co-owner. Photo source: Lancaster Newspaper (Blaine Shahan)

Turkey Hill receives its milk from about 130 MDVA farms all within a 50-mile radius of their manufacturing facility in Conestoga, Pennsylvania. As part of their 2018 contract with MDVA, Turkey Hill has asked that all producers receive a conservation plan and reach environmental compliance through on-the-ground conservation practices. Once all of Turkey Hill’s MDVA milk suppliers are in compliance, Turkey Hill will pay the farmers a premium for their milk.

MDVA and the Alliance have been coordinating site visits to establish which of the 100 Turkey Hill farms have a conservation plan and which are in compliance with the plan if they have one. So far, we know that of 60 of the farms visited by MDVA staff so far, 17 need conservation plans. The Alliance will be visiting those that need conservation plans to help link them up with a local agricultural consulting firm or NRCS to write their plan.

The overall goal of the Partnership is to motivate greater environmental conservation efforts through working with the private sector, as well as create an incentive method that other businesses can easily adopt.

Healthy Farms — Putting It Into Action

For more information about this groundbreaking partnership, visit our blog or read the Lancaster Online article.

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Jenna Mitchell Pennsylvania State Director, Pennsylvania Office

Jenna serves as the Alliance's Pennsylvania State Director, where she oversees our PA staff and manages several projects in the region.

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