For the Harnish family of Central Manor Dairy in Washington Boro, Pennsylvania, and the Carpenter family of Red Rock View Farms in Darlington, Wisconsin, their farms pull double duty – not only as their livelihood but as a platform for agricultural sustainability advocacy.
Late last year, each farm was honored for their efforts with the Outstanding Advocacy Award at the Land O'Lakes SUSTAIN Farmer Recognition and Innovation Summit.
Central Manor Dairy and the Harnish family are deeply embedded into the fabric of their local community in Washington Boro. A true family operation owned and operated by three generations, the Harnishes’ approach to advocacy is to engage young consumers and provide them with a solid knowledge base for how sustainability and agriculture go hand-in-hand. They do this through classroom presentations, farm tours, on-farm sustainability group projects and social media. They strive to be transparent in their farming practices and seek to engage the community so that they understand the how and why behind everything that the Harnishes do on their farm. In total, the Harnish family has educated over 1,365 students.
Meanwhile, the entire Carpenter family, from Steve and his wife, Lisa, to their four children, are also active with FFA and 4-H. They regularly host young people at Red Rock View Farms, shedding light on everything that happens on their diversified operation, which includes corn, alfalfa, winter wheat and dairy.
The Carpenters use not only their farm as a platform for advocacy, they also share their own on-farm conservation experiences and learnings with other farmers. They work with Ross Soil Service and are always testing out new ideas and ways to improve both production and sustainability on their farm.
Steve Carpenter was a founding member of the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA), a local nonprofit organization launched in 2017 and focused on sharing best practices across area farms. LASA works to identify and promote conservation practices that demonstrate continuous improvement in farming methods that protect water quality. While farmer-led, LASA partners with organizations including American Society of Agronomy, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and The Nature Conservancy to develop dairy-focused sustainability projects.
Similarly, Steve Harnish and Central Manor Dairy have been tireless advocates for sustainability and agriculture at all levels. In 2014, Steve and his wife Becky engaged with their U.S. representatives and senators on Capitol Hill during the National Milk Producers Federation fly-in. Then in 2015, Steve spoke at the Feeding the Planet Summit at George Washington University. In addition, the entire Harnish family have always been advocates at the local and state levels by having meaningful conversations with everyone from school board representatives to state Congressmen.
Central Manor Dairy also uses social media to educate their local community and provide explanations for farm activities. Their posts include time-lapse videos of filling silage bunkers, updates on construction projects, and a history of the farm told through aerial photographs. These posts spark dialogue on social media and provide community members a tool to directly interact engage the Harnish family in deeper and more enlightening conversations about agriculture and sustainability. The Carpenter and Harnish families are both active in Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN, which is rooted in the idea that ag sustainability is owned and driven by farmers.
A successful SUSTAIN means a healthier planet, with dramatic improvements in soil and water and air quality; stronger rural and farm economies, with more money in the pockets of farmers; and better relationships between consumers and those who work hard to feed them.