November 23, 2022 at 4:56 p.m.
Attainable, approachable sustainability
The discussion was led by panelists Amber Radatz, an agriculture water quality program manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Amanda Freund, a creator of CowPots; Dr. Melissa Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota; and LuAnn Troxel, a farmer and dairy enthusiast.
“Everyone knows sustainability is an important word,” Troxel said.
Radatz works closely with Discovery Farms, a program of UW-Madison Division of Extension. Discovery Farms is farmer-led research aimed toward agriculture and water quality that is carried out on private farms.
“My job is to provide science to support continuous improvement and tools to help farmers address issues,” Radatz said.
Radatz said the producer’s job is to learn how to adapt the tools she provides to manage their farm and unique situations, especially as it applies to manure management. Radatz also works closely with water quality issues and oversees water quality research and outreach programs.
When it comes to manure, Freund works with the sales and marketing of CowPots, a company that manufactures biodegradable, natural and plastic-free seed pots made of manure.
Freund wanted to use a dairy cow byproduct to create something unique.
The company offers various sizes of pots and is working on using the material for packaging the corners of picture frames. The company is also open to working with manufacturers who are looking to build custom prototypes from the CowPot product for their own use.
Although Freund said they sold their cows, they adapted to sustainable practices on their farm. They have a methane digester, which produces biogas from manure, and solar panels. They also recycle water, manage soil health and practice no-till farming on their corn fields in addition to creating the biodegradable CowPots.
Wilson presented on manure management and the importance of manure.
“Manure is the gift that keeps on giving,” Wilson said.
Manure provides to the ecosystem, feeds the microbes and provides nutrients, Wilson said. Providing manure to the soil can also improve soil health. Wilson said manure does so by becoming less erodible and increasing the water holding capacity of the soil.
Manure can also be managed. Injecting the manure into the soil can potentially reduce the odor, Wilson said.
Wilson, Radatz, Freund and Troxel said producers need to understand the science behind sustainability efforts so they can share their efforts with consumers.