Highlighting Best Practices in our Watershed
CLWA VISITS A LOCAL GRASS-FED ORGANIC DAIRY FARMER
BY JACK DAILEY
One of the economic engines in our area is agriculture, both dairy and cash crops. Farms dot the hillsides of the lake and extend beyond into other lands that many times drain into the lake.
Recently CLWA met with Andrew Hoover and his family, who operate a dairy farm in the Town of Gorham. Andrew and his family tend to a herd of 80 -100 cows. The herd is geared toward the production of organic milk and milk products. Their raw milk is sold to an organic processor with the final product appearing in the dairy section of your grocery store under the brand name Maple Hill Farms.
The Hoover family has gained certification for organic milk production from the NYS Department of Agriculture. The certification assures the public that animals are not injected with antibiotics or other hormones to increase production. The certification extends to animal feed and its production where the use of insecticides and genetically modified seeds is prohibited.
The Hoovers keep 100% of their 300+ acres in grassland for grazing. No fertilizers are applied. No tilling is done. Manure Patties (excrement) are left in place to decompose naturally. This encourages earthworm activity and the production of nutrients for grass growth. The waste material is absorbed into the earth within five to six weeks thus minimizing run-off to the lake. The farm also has a creek that runs toward the lake. To prevent cows from crossing the creek and thus polluting it, a fence was installed that runs parallel to the creek on both sides.
Winter brings a change to the farm routine. Hay harvested during the growing season is used for animal feed. Stored manure is spread over the fields in the spring.
Andrew points out the benefits of “no-till.” Land left barren after being tilled is more susceptible to erosion. Over the years the depth of topsoil is depleted, thus increasing the need to add nutrients. With pasturing, the soil is left covered protecting it from the elements while nutrients build up naturally. It should be noted that many area farmers are experimenting with cover crops after tillage in an effort to minimize erosion.
As a final note, Andrew mentions milk yield for non-organic animals may be higher; but when the cost of insecticides, antibiotics, and tilling are calculated profitability is similar to organic farming.
As we chatted with the Hoovers, their love of the land, and their efforts to protect the land and Canandaigua Lake became very clear.
Thank you Hoovers for being great stewards of the watershed!
You can find Many Maple Hill Creamery products at local Wegmans stores. Use their online tool to search for specific products at each store location. www.maplehill.com/find-us.