Craving the farm life
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Transforming the farm into what it is today required hard work, perseverance, and innovation, and the latter is evident in Crave Brothers’ sustainable farm practices. Ten years ago, when their dairy numbered more than 1,000 cows, the Crave family decided to install a manure digester. The idea was to turn waste into energy, and the digester not only produces enough energy to power the entire dairy farm and cheese-making plant, it also generates enough power for 300 homes.
Other innovative practices include conservation tillage, water conservation, nutrient preservation and management, and barns with curtain sides and free stalls that emphasize cow comfort. The Crave brothers have traveled to teach others their dairy management techniques, and they keep a close eye on manure management practices of farmers in the Yahara River watershed, which are undertaken to divert phosphorus from area lakes.
“A lot of the industry is not only watching them but we’re learning from each other, perhaps at a greater level than ever,” Crave states. “We in agriculture are very much aware of climate change. There’s a reason our crops look crummy this year. It’s because of the huge amounts of rain, so we know that weather extremes are more severe than we’ve experienced in the past.”
Today, Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese wins state, national, and international awards, but it was the Crave family’s commitment to sustainability and innovative practices that impressed judges in the 2017 Wisconsin Family Business Awards program. The family’s contributions to the dairy industry also were cited for its Grand Award in the Medium Company category.
“It was just an incredible affirmation of not only the business but particularly the family,” notes Crave, “and the efforts that generations have put forth toward success as a family and success as a farm.”
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