Dairy farmer Chris Wagner, owner of the Green Dream Farm in Enosburg Falls, Vermont, has a new setup that provides him with low-cost bedding for his herd and reduces the greenhouse gas produced by his cows. Wagner was able to install the technology by partnering with fellow Vermonters NativeEnergy, a carbon-offset and project-development company, and Ben & Jerry’s, the iconic ice cream maker.
Wagner’s new equipment processes his cow manure and then composts it. The resulting product is sanitary and makes excellent bedding for his milking herd. As a result, Wagner will no longer have to purchase wood shavings and will see significant savings in the cost of bedding.
As Wagner explained, “The separator/composter will provide ample amounts of high-quality bedding for our own use and for sale. Embarking on this project moves us to the next level in managing the manure generated on the farm. It is more than just a waste product. It is now part of our revenue stream.”
Long known for combining business savvy and social responsibility, Ben & Jerry’s achieves several goals through its investment. It reduces the greenhouse gas emissions in its supply chain, while at the same time strengthening its milk supply. The Green Dream Farm’s 360 cows supply Ben & Jerry’s through the local St. Alban’s Cooperative Creamery.
“This project represents results from the investments of multiple parties,” Jeff Bernicke, CEO of NativeEnergy, said. “People are putting in their money to make this project happen, and it will provide returns for many years. We have structured the project so that Chris Wagner gets savings and value for a decade, at least; and so that Ben & Jerry’s reduces emissions in its supply chain and helps one of its farmers to prosper for a decade, at least. “
Ben & Jerry’s calls this combination of social and business benefits “Linked Prosperity”: The farm’s finances are improved, environmental performance is improved, and Ben & Jerry’s can remain confident that the local dairy community will thrive.
“NativeEnergy has been a long-time partner finding innovative and creative solutions to help businesses like ours act on our values,” said Andrea Asch, Ben & Jerry’s Environmental Manager. “This new opportunity works perfectly with our Caring Dairy initiative to position Vermont farmers for future sustainable success.”
“Linked Prosperity is a wonderful term,” Bernicke said. “It captures the essence of what this project accomplishes: people making a strong chain of connections to ensure thriving communities.”
NativeEnergy and Ben & Jerry’s have a longstanding collaboration to bring new carbon-reduction projects online. Using NativeEnergy’s Help BuildTM model, the two firms have collaborated on new wind and farm-based community-and-carbon projects for more than a decade. The Help BuildTM approach provides up-front funding for carbon value to projects under development. This funding enables projects that need that funding to be built, meaning customers play a direct role in bringing new developments to fruition.
What distinguished the Green Dream Farm project from previous Help BuildTM carbon projects is the clear focus on its delivery of long-term business value to Ben & Jerry’s. The company known for weaving values, such as Fairtrade sourcing or non-GMO labeling into its ice cream flavors, needs high-quality milk to deliver on its product and social promises — as such, small family dairy farms such as Wagner’s are the backbone of Ben & Jerry’s supply. The company’s Caring Dairy Program is designed to assist farmers while encouraging them to adopt best operating practices. The Green Dream Farm is another step in making investments that have impacts across the spectrum of the ice cream maker’s sustainability goals.