The 2022 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards program recognized several outstanding farms, businesses and partnerships. Awardees were recognized for their socially responsible, economically viable and environmentally sound practices and technologies that broadly and positively impact the community around them. Hosted by the farmer-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, these awards have recognized more than 80 winners since the beginning of this prestigious award in 2012.
Award applications are judged by an independent panel of dairy and conservation experts who consider innovation, scalability and replicability when evaluating nominations. Among the criteria to apply for the awards are the participation and good standing in the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management animal care program and agreement to participate in the FARM Environmental Stewardship online tool for determining their greenhouse gas (GHG) and energy footprint. Both initiatives are part of the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, U.S. dairy’s social responsibility pledge to consumers, customers and other stakeholders.
Awards like these allow the dairy industry to showcase forward-thinking farmers and regenerative efforts leading to positive results across the entire supply chain. It is so important we celebrate those who have committed to going the extra mile to be an environmental solution. This year’s winners excelled in areas like methane and other GHG-reduction practices as well as water use efficiencies that support the industry-wide 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals. Midwest Dairy is proud to celebrate three Midwest region farmers’ awards. Congratulations to the Midwest region 2022 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners.

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability: Steve and Cheryl Schlangen Dairy Farm of Albany, Minnesota
Steve and Cheryl Schlangen’s continuous improvement mindset is a way of life on their 60-cow, 200-acre farm in Stearns County. They count more than 30 conservation practices, from LED lighting and cover crops to a manure-stacking slab that prevents nutrients from leaching into the water, and a manure injection system that uses less time, less fuel and has virtually eliminated the need for commercial fertilizer on their crops. Their enthusiasm for sharing ideas and results with others has earned them a national reputation as leaders in regenerative agriculture. Schlangen Dairy provides a blueprint for beginning farmers and generational farms to follow.

Outstanding Supply Chain Sustainability: Bel Brands, Land O’Lakes Inc. and Boadwine Dairy
This multi-year program is designed to demonstrate the value of feed production practices that improve soil health and reduce GHG emissions. It also supports Bel Brands’ and Land O’Lakes’ shared ambitions to improve sustainable farming practices and reduce dairy’s environmental footprint. The project provides cost incentives, access to resources and expertise, and the use of the Truterra Insights Engine to participating farms. The first pilot took place on Boadwine Dairy, a member-owner of Land O’Lakes, where efforts to improve soil health have been ongoing for more than 10 years and are being expanded to dairy farms ranging in size from 450 to 2,000 cows in two regions.   

Outstanding Dairy Processing Sustainability: Milk Specialties Global of Monroe, Wisconsin
A whey processing project at Minnesota-headquartered Milk Specialties Global demonstrates how making one change can deliver sustainability benefits across the supply chain. To meet surging demand for dairy protein in foods and beverages, MSG acquired a plant in Monroe, Wisconsin, to collect and process whey, a by-product of cheesemaking, into whey proteins. However, the whey supply from local cheesemakers far outweighed its processing capacity. Instead of trucking the whey to a larger plant, MSG found a way to double capacity at the plant without increasing the facility’s footprint. Artisanal cheesemakers saw a waste product turn into a revenue stream. The local community benefitted too. Truck miles decreased by 237,232 miles, saving 47,446 gallons of diesel fuel and reducing GHG emissions by 486 metric tons; 2.9 million gallons of water are now reclaimed and returned to the local watershed; and more than 53,000 pounds of whey protein are produced annually to fuel athletes and animals around the globe.
Congratulations to all awardees but especially those from our Midwest Dairy 10-state region. I agree with Barbara O’Brien, CEO of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, who said, “Considered collectively, these stories of success serve as examples of all the good things U.S. dairy is doing for planetary health and why the aggressive goals we have set are within reach.”