The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recently announced the 2022 Sustainability Award Winners and Land O’Lakes, Inc. has received the Outstanding Supply Chain Sustainability Award for its work with Bel Brands USA and Boadwine Dairy. This multi-year pilot program began in 2021 and is designed to demonstrate the value of feed production practices that improve soil health and reduce greenhouse emissions. We talked to the owner of Boadwine Dairy, a farmer member of Land O’Lakes, about how he got involved and the benefits he’s already seeing by taking part in the program.
For Lynn Boadwine, farming is in his blood. His great-grandparents founded Boadwine Dairy in 1874 and this eastern South Dakota farm has grown generation by generation. Lynn is the fourth generation to take over operations, with his son, Riley, next in line.
“When you grow up on a farm, that’s all you know,” Lynn says. “Every meal sitting at the family dining table was like a farm business meeting. Kids are a vital part of that workforce, and you don’t really complain because you understand the work that has to be done, and the cows need to be milked.”
A lot has changed since 1874. Lynn says when he was a kid, his family was only milking about 40 cows. Since taking over in 1986, Lynn’s farm now milks 4,000 cows. Conversation and education about agriculture’s impact on climate change have also changed significantly since then.
“Times were different back in 1874,” Lynn says. “How much fossil fuel did my great-grandparents use when they came on the covered wagon? What was the population in the U.S. back in 1874 compared to today? As the world industrializes, it’s inevitable we are having an impact on the climate. The neat part about agriculture is we can adapt and do good for the environment when the majority of the public might not be willing to make the necessary changes.”
Lynn says he has been making efforts to improve soil health on his dairy farm for more than 10 years. But he knew he needed financial and technical support to meet his long-term sustainability goals.
In 2021, Land O’Lakes created the Dairy 2025 Commitment team to help all Land O’Lakes member farmers complete an intensive on-farm sustainability assessment by 2025. At the same time, Land O’Lakes established several projects with customers to help achieve shared supply chain goals. As a member of Land O’Lakes, Lynn partnered with the Dairy 2025 Commitment team and Bel Brands in a multi-year pilot program to increase the use of cover crops and other sustainable agricultural practices on Boadwine Dairy.
“This partnership has given me the confidence to adopt new sustainable farming methods, like cover cropping, with some shared support,” Lynn says. “For example, terminating herbicide unexpectedly more than doubled in price this past year. Not every farmer is in a position to invest in testing and learning, so support from partners like Land O’Lakes and Bel Brands further up the supply chain is critical.”
The project provides cost incentives, access to resources and expertise, and the use of the Truterra™ Insights Engine with participating farms like Boadwine Dairy. This tool is a conservation data platform that will benchmark, track and evaluate changes in Nutrient Utilization Efficiency (NUE), soil erosion, soil quality and greenhouse gas emissions over the course of three years.
In its first year, Boadwine Dairy’s overall sustainability score for the 2021 season was 10 points higher than the national average. This was calculated based on 1.8 million acres currently enrolled in the Truterra tool. As Lynn Boadwine points out, though, “The overall goal is pretty simple: more cover crops, less tillage, more soil armor. But we have a whole new strategy for next year based on what I’m learning.”
While work on Boadwine Dairy is just the beginning, the success to date has shown that this is a scalable way to drive positive climate outcomes while supporting farmers through mitigating the risk of practice changes and creating new potential revenue and market opportunities. There are plans to expand the pilot program to additional dairies and other supply chain participants.
The pilot program was one of seven exceptional farms, businesses and partnerships recognized by the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards program for their socially responsible, economically viable, and environmentally sound practices and technologies that have a broad and positive impact. See the full list of this year’s winners here.