Farmer Friday: Freund’s Farm
This week we’re pleased to share the news that Freund’s Farm, one of the 1,200 farm family owners of Cabot, has been awarded the 2015 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Resource Stewardship.
The Freunds have been focused on sustainability from the beginning – since before ‘sustainability’ was the name for treating environment and community the right way. When Eugene Freund moved from New York City to East Canaan, CT, to start the farm with his wife Esther in 1949, he held a strong belief in environmental stewardship. He made that belief a core part of the way the Freund’s Farm is operated, and while Eugene has passed on, the principles he instilled in his family have led the farm to initiatives that he couldn’t have dreamed of when he started the farm.
Managing cow manure is a very important – and challenging – part of what dairy farmers do. But the Freunds have found a way to make the manure an asset and a money maker. Using their methane digester, some impressive ingenuity, and a lot of time to experiment, the Freunds were able to create CowPots – an environmentally friendly flowerpot. CowPots are made from the nutrient-rich manure left over from the process of creating biogas from their methane digester.
This renewable energy source is used to heat hot water for the family’s home and barns. The Freunds squeeze the manure to separate solids from liquids, using the liquids to fertilize their crop fields and the solids for producing CowPots. This value added product grows bigger, healthier plants and reduces the need to use plastic planters. It also generates another revenue stream to help keep the farm viable and reduces the nutrient load on the farm. The Freund’s invention has been featured on CNN, the Today Show and Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs. CowPots are available online and at retailers throughout the country.
Freund’s Farm is now run by the second generation, Matt and Ben, along with Matt’s wife Theresa and three of their children, Amanda, Rachel, and Isaac. They have another daughter, Emily, who pitches in a hand when she is home from her job with a local Connecticut vineyard (Jones Family Vineyard).
In addition to the great work they do with their waste, the family has installed enough solar panels to generate the electricity they need to power the dairy farm. They also take advantage of many other sustainable farm practices including crop work through cover cropping, zone till cropping and rotational cropping. All three practices work toward reducing erosion and building soil health. The Freund’s Farm motto is “keep clean water clean and dirty water contained.” All rainwater is collected off of barn roofs with gutters, animals are fenced out of streams when on pasture, wash water is recycled, native species have been planted along river’s edge to improve the riparian buffers on the two rivers that pass through their farm. Energy efficiencies on the farm include variable speed fans, a milking parlor that is housed in a greenhouse where they can take advantage of sunlight as well as the body heat from the cows to reduce need to turn on lights or turn on the heat. The list goes on and on; you can learn more on the CowPots site.
Perhaps the most important part of all the initiatives the Freunds take on is their willingness to share their knowledge and passion for the environment. Matt serves as Chair of the Agri-Mark Sustainable Farms Committee and Amanda, Rachel, and Isaac are active in both the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association’s Young Farmers Committee and the Cabot Young Cooperator program – a program that identifies the next generation of leaders in the Cooperative and allows them to share thoughts and ideas.
This week, Amanda took the time – from Washington, DC – to answer a few questions about what this award means to her family.