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Horizon Organic has implemented sustainable farm practices and is supporting long-term conservation projects at its Kennedyville, Md. farm, which has been certified organic since 1998. The farm is in the ecologically sensitive Chesapeake Bay area: Morgan Creek, which has been classified a Wetland of Special State Concern because it contains a number of rare plant species, runs through the heart of the dairy.
"At our Maryland dairy, we operate from the bottom up, using a variety of environmental practices to help build our soil and care for our cows while protecting this watershed and the diversity of the ecosystem," said Greg Heidemann, general manager at the Maryland dairy.
Among the eco-processes adopted by the farm:
- Solar panels were installed to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The panels are located on the farm's shop building to heat water used in the shop and to heat the floor with radiant heating. Future panels will be added to the milk house and freestall barn.
- A berm and dam structure was constructed to improve biodiversity by reducing erosion near the stream bank from hard rains and to capture the rainwater for use in irrigating pastures and crops. The dam can hold up to 6 million gallons of rainwater.
- A gutter system was installed to capture rainwater, which is then stored and used for pasture irrigation.
All manure produced on the farm is composted to use as a soil amendment. The farm is an active grazing operation that employs the grazing principles of Holistic Management International, and works with the state's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to create buffer zones around pasture and crop areas that serve as habitats for local wildlife.
- An active recycling program is in place, recycling aluminum, cardboard, and paper.
- The farm management team works closely with local community organizations to protect the watershed and ecosystem surrounding the farm, including the Chester River Association, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Corps of Engineers. As a result the farm has seen an increase in biodiversity of local plants, animals, and beneficial insects.
- Wetland areas were built on the farm when the farm gained wetlands area designation with the NRCS. These wetlands catch and filter any possible runoff from the compost area, with the added benefit of uptaking nitrogen and phosphorous.
Horizon Organic milk is supplied by 475 certified organic family farmers from 22 U.S. states, and the Broomfield, Colo.-based company's farming practices have kept over 17 million pounds of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer out of the environment.