Ice cream and beverage brand Turkey Hill is investing in the local dairy farmers it relies on for milk with a new $1.5m commitment to water conservation. It focuses on those connected to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed in central Pennsylvania.
The new organization will provide technical and financial assistance to meet the farmers’ conservation goals and protect Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. There are more than 86,000 miles of streams and rivers in the state, and 19,990 miles are considered unhealthy or impaired.
Turkey Hill said, “Because the Lancaster County area is highly populated by small dairy operations that often feel monetary pressure to use all available land for production, the result can be overgrazing and/or cropland production too close to streams, contributing to nutrient and sediment pollution and reduced stream health.”
Funding for the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership (THCWP) is being provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, up to 75% cost share assistance to farmers.
“After farmers implement all practices prescribed in their conservation plans, they will receive a premium from Turkey Hill for their milk - a measure that is considered critical to the partnership’s success. This economic incentive for conservation is essential to achieving conservation goals in today’s struggling dairy economy,” Turkey Hill said.
The model of the partnership is designed to be replicated in other regions, with hopes to spread a desire for conservation action across the country. Turkey Hill said the approach is applicable to other agricultural sectors and “has proven to be a technique that yields dramatic acceleration in the rate of conservation practice adoption.”
The organization is already conducting site visits at local farms to monitor their conservation status. Of 60 of the farms visited by staff so far, 17 still need conservation plans.