Farmers across Michigan are committed to continuous improvement when it comes to sustainability. Whether its achieving greenhouse gas neutrality or reducing pesticide dependency using GMOs, farmers are invested in protecting the environment and continually improving the land they farm.
Preserving for the Future
There are many reasons why farmers practice sustainability, and one of the most important is to preserve the land for future generations. According to Damien Miller, a corn farmer in Elsie, “being sustainable is the only reason generational family farms exist.” As Damien recently shared with Michigan Corn, “farmers will never do anything intentionally to hurt their ground; that hurts our pocket, and our way of life.”
Miller Family Farms practices sustainability by utilizing cover crops in their fields and using strip-till or no-till practices. These techniques decrease soil erosion, retains nutrients and manages weeds, pests and diseases.
Reducing energy consumption is also a top priority for farmers. James Weber, a dairy farmer in Vassar, increased his focus on sustainability when he came back to his family’s farm in 2014, concentrating efforts on energy. In an article featured in MMPA’s Milk Messenger publication, James shared that when building his new milking parlor, he topped it with 200 kilowatt solar panels and in turn cut the dairy’s energy costs in half.
“Any way that we are able to capture energy efficiently if it’s something that has a good return on investment, we’ll go after it,” James said.
Michigan sugarbeet growers are striving for zero waste when producing sugar. All parts of the sugarbeet are either commercialized or recycled. According to Michigan Sugar Company, in addition to making sugar, they produce coproducts like pulp and molasses, which can be used in livestock feed, pet foods and road de-icer. Much of the water removed from the beets is converted to steam to power various operations inside their factories.
This total-usage practice is not only good for business, but it also benefits the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the elimination of waste. This conservation of natural resources, coupled with robust recycling, is just one of the ways that Michigan Sugar Company protects the environment and aggressively manages its impact.
Keeping a Watchful Eye
One of the biggest ways farmers in Michigan practice sustainability is simple: they pay attention. They are constantly monitoring their crops, the weather, and the soil. Keeping a close eye helps them adjust and plan accordingly.
According to an article on USSoy.org written by Michigan soybean farmer Laurie Isley, “…we always have new projects going on to figure out how we can take better care of our resources.” The soybean farm, located in Palmyra, is participating in a multi-year study with Michigan State University, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Michigan Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Department to carefully monitor the water leaving the farm. This study will help them learn if their management practices are keeping nutrients for the crops and protecting the water quality.
Practicing sustainability is something that farmers do 365 days a year. Their stewardship of the land ensures Michigan agriculture will continue to thrive for decades to come and, as a result, we get to enjoy the bounty of their efforts with more than 300 great-tasting, fresh foods and products grown here. Their top priority is providing nutritious, quality food that you can be confident were grown with care.