National Dairy Month: Celebrating Dairy Farming and Ways Farmers Contribute to Our Health and Resilience
As National Dairy Month comes to a close, we want to take a moment to celebrate the many soil health champions who are Virginia farmers and the many ways farmers contribute to our health and resilience.
With his family, Phil Witmer owns and operates Grazeland Dairy, a certified organic dairy farm in the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. As a grass-based dairy farm, Grazeland Dairy is committed to taking care of the resources on their land and building a stronger food system.
“We are caretakers of what we’ve been given. We are caretakers of creation,” states Witmer.
Witmer focuses on the entire agroecological system in managing his land and operation, understanding that everything, including the health of the soil, is interconnected. He explains, “All of the factors that are in the background- whether it’s the soil or managing livestock… everything fits together holistically.”
Taking care of the land is essential to Witmer, and managing his land for soil health is an important component of keeping it resilient and flourishing for generations to come. “The motivation to keep going on the bad days and when things aren’t working is that we’ve gotta keep this thing moving so that opportunity exists later if our children want to farm.”
Gerald Garber of Cave View Farm also understands the importance of managing the entire farming system for environmental and economic resilience. He focuses on animal well being and cow comfort so the dairy cattle and soil life thrive. “Our cows get 60 days paid vacation a year. The life of a cow is that they generally work for 305 days and then they go frolic for 60 days.”
Garber is committed to applying the four principles of soil health management on his operation. He specifically emphasizes keeping the soil covered and to always have living roots in the cropping system. “We try to keep something growing all the time, ” explains Garber. Garber plants a cover crop in the summer to maximize living roots year-round. He focuses on building soil structure and organic matter content by using cover crops such as sunflowers with strong root systems, while also being conscious of how dairy cows are managed to avoid soil compaction.
Although National Dairy Month is coming to a close for 2022, we can celebrate dairy farming and the ways farmers contribute to our health throughout the year. We can contribute to the health and resilience of dairy farming by learning more about farmers’ soil health-building practices and enjoying milk, butter, ice cream, yogurt, cream, kefir, and more on a regular basis.
Join the soil health movement and take the pledge! 4 The Soil is a campaign by the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness of soil as an agricultural and natural resource. When you take the pledge, you can join our bi-weekly newsletter to stay connected, learn soil health-building principles, and read more stories.
About the Blog
Join the movement! 4 The Soil is a campaign by the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness of soil as an agricultural and natural resource. By caring for the soil, we can build healthier communities, stronger economies, and a more resilient landscape.