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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.

Assessing the Need for Action

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)

Where It All Began & Where We Are Going

Turkey Hill Dairy receives its milk from about 160 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 100 percent environmental compliance through implementing on-the-ground conservation practices. These practices include animal waste storage systems, riparian forest buffers, cover crops, barnyard stabilization, and more. Once all of MDVA’s member farms supplying milk to Turkey Hill Dairy are in compliance, Turkey Hill will pay the farmers a premium for their milk.

Throughout the past two years, MDVA and the Alliance have been coordinating site visits to establish which farms have a conservation plan and which are in compliance with their plan if they already have one. As of 2018, we found that of 60 farms visited by MDVA staff, 17 need conservation plans. MDVA’s sustainability team field staff will be visiting those that need conservation plans to link them up with a local agricultural consulting firm or the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to write their plan.

The goal of the Partnership is to restore the health of Lancaster’s waterways and encourage other businesses to create environmental change with a nonprofit partner. Reducing the amount of nutrients and sediment flowing from farms and into local waterways not only improves stream health locally, but it also helps restore the health of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. Overall, the THCWP hopes to demonstrate how cross-sector partnerships have the ability to accelerate local restoration efforts.

Healthy Farms — Putting It Into Action

Gaining Momentum Into A New Decade

The THCWP has gained a lot of momentum through the end of 2019. In fact, the Partnership has secured over $2 million in grant funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. With this funding, to date, the Partnership has helped over 160 dairy producers obtain conservation plans and has implemented 10 conservation practices on a portion of those farms.

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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