Friday, April 22, 2016

Celebrating "Earth Day" Every Day

by Will Gilmer

"Earth Day" began nearly half a century ago as a way to celebrate and show support for protecting our environment. For dairy farmers like myself and others throughout the agriculture community, every day is Earth Day and April 22nd is simply the day on the calendar that everyone else acknowledges what we’ve always appreciated. We farmers strive to be responsible stewards of the environment because our livelihood and family legacy are connected to the health of the land, air and water we share.

Dairy farmers work hard to protect these precious resources which provide the foundation for the cows we raise to produce milk, but also because we live on this land with our families. Many families like mine have been living on the same land we have farmed for over 100 years, and we hope to pass it along to future generations just as it was passed down to us. This is why sustainability is so important, because we need to be able to produce nutritious and affordable foods like milk and grow crops while maintaining or even reducing the amount of land required to do so.

Captured dairy manure is used to
fertilize forage crops and pasture grasses.
Advances in the dairy industry have allowed us reduce our overall “carbon footprint.” We can now produce 60 percent more milk, using 64 percent fewer cows than half a century ago. In fact, it takes about 90 percent less land to produce a gallon of milk compared to 1944.

Dairy farmers now do more than ever before to re-use and recycle the waste their cows produce. Like many other dairymen, we take our manure and spread it around in our fields to fertilize grass, corn or other crops. Others use dried out manure as sanitary bedding for cows, while other are using it to create electricity via anaerobic digesters.

Dairy farmers like me have lived “green” for decades, not because it’s a movement, but because it’s the right thing to do and happens to be good for business. So if you’re looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day, raise a glass of milk or thank a farmer for what they do the other 364 days each year.

Will Gilmer is the founder and publisher of The Lamar Countian, and is a graduate of Lamar County High School and Mississippi State University. Along with his father, he co-owns and operates his family's dairy farm in the Shiloh community. You can follow Will on Twitter at @gilmerdairy.

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