Farmers who graze their herds have lower costs for such things as feed, fertilizer, pesticides, and equipment,
and also routinely produce less nutrient and sediment pollution, primary pollutants to the Chesapeake Bay.
By Tom Zolper
ith lobbyists for industrial agriculture predicting the collapse of American farming
if the Clean Water Act is enforced, it’s refreshing to meet Myron Martin, and to see his farm’s
Martin is a dairy farmer in western Maryland. But his Peace Hollow Farm is not just
any farm. It is perhaps the most profitable
dairy farm in the region according to
recent calculations by the University of
Maryland Extension. It also is one of the
most environmentally friendly. Martin is a
mentor in the Maryland Grazers Network,
a CBF project that helps farmers learn from
other farmers and environmental professionals how to cut down on pollution and
Martin, like other Grazers, raises his
cows grazing on pasture, the old fashioned way, rather than confining them in
the typical model of modern animal husbandry. Farmers who use grazing have
lower costs for such things as feed, fertilizer, pesticides, and equipment, and also
routinely produce less nutrient and sediment pollution, primary pollutants to the
Martin earns a per-cow profit for his milk of
$919 on average, according to studies conducted by Dale Johnson of the Extension.
The average confinement operation earns
$451 per cow. Other farmers in the Grazers
Network earn on average $588 per cow. Martin earns nearly as much in milk sales for his
72 cows as the average confinement dairy
farmer would earn with twice as many cows.
These sorts of figures contradict the American
Farm Bureau Federation, which has been trying to raise fears among farmers that new
efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay would
put farmers out of business. Peace Hollow
Farm and other operations prove the opposite:
Sustainable farming can help increase profits.
“He (Martin) still has to deal with manure
but the way he’s managing his pastures,
we’re very confident very little manure is
leaving the pastures and going into the
waterways,” Johnson said. “Is there a
more environmentally friendly way of
producing milk and possibly more prof-
itable? We’re thinking grazing does both.”
Martin also improves his profit margins
by selling his milk to an organic whole-
sale farmer coop, Organic Valley, Johnson
said. Organic milk brings a higher price.
That fact underscores the critical importance of consumers supporting small, environmentally friendly family farms. Buying
farm products directly from farmers at farmers markets, through Community Supported Agriculture networks, or from retailers
who feature organic farm brands, simultaneously helps save the financially threatened
family farm and the Bay.
uFor more information, check out the
Chesapeake chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local
hosted by CBF at cbf.org/buylocal.
uCBF started the Maryland Grazers Network
with help from the Chesapeake Bay Funders
Network. The Amazing Grazing Directory
lists 120 grazers in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia, and is available
online at http://www.futureharvestcasa.org.
Tom Zolper works in CBF’s
Maryland office as the
He is a former teacher and