Thinking Outside The Bay

Listen to Hannah Walmer, Sustainability Specialist with Maryland & Virginia explain the project.

When the shovel hits the dirt, it’s usually a sign of progress. In the case of some Maryland & Virginia farms of late, that shovel is being manned by someone other than a dairy farmer.

That’s because for the last five years, Maryland & Virginia and our partners at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay (Alliance) have been hard at work, finding ways to impact the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America. 

On this Earth Day 2022, Maryland & Virginia knows that there are opportunities. Opportunities to think outside the bay.

With 87 percent of Maryland & Virginia members farming inside the Chesapeake Bay watershed — yet most far outside the shorelines of the body of water itself — Maryland & Virginia and the Alliance began to work on finding ways to enact real change on our member farms.

The first partnership to be fused was the Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership, a partnership between the Alliance, Maryland & Virginia, and popular ice cream manufacturer, Turkey Hill Dairy.

The first-of-it-kind union won the Outstanding Supply Chain Collaboration Award in 2020 from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

And this was the partnership that brought 20 volunteers to Lititz, Pennsylvania early on a cloudy morning this month.


Listen to Brittany Smith, Agricultural Project Manager with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay explain why riparian buffers are so important
Our partnerships also helped to fund projects like a new stream culvert, enhanced manure storage, and a new heifer barn on the Lititz farm. The improvements will help with soil health and nutrient management, just like the newly planted riparian buffer.

On this particular day, the volunteers from Turkey Hill Dairy, Maryland & Virginia, our members’ brand Maola, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and American Dairy Association North East put more than 400 trees along the stream’s edge.

The Turkey Hill Clean Water Partnership, along with a second partnership between the Alliance, Maryland & Virginia and retail grocer Giant, have planted more than 2,500 trees onto member farms to create riparian buffers.

Buffers are important upstream and outside the Bay because they help filter the water locally that will eventually drain to the Bay, helping to correct some of the challenges that the body of water has faced.

To date, we’ve put more than $16 million onto member farms for agriculture best management practices – with $7 million of that coming in 2021 alone.

A total of over $4 million has been awarded to the Turkey Hill Clean Water Project to put sustainability projects on farm. Those dollars came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Maryland & Virginia was the only dairy cooperative in the country to be part of an awarded RCPP grant.

Maryland & Virginia was the first cooperative in the country to seek these types of partnerships throughout the entire supply chain. Our pioneering method puts the focus on our member farms and ensures that each project will help the dairy farmer as much as it will the environment.

Former Philadelphia pro football wide receiver Jason Avant joined the efforts, learning the importance of a riparian buffer and recording a message to help boost consumer awareness of environmental stewardship by dairy farmers.

April’s tree planting was a testament to the success of the partners each bringing their expertise to the table and helping the dairy supply chain become more sustainable.

Research shows that 60% of consumers consider sustainability as an important criterion when selecting products for purchase. 

On this Earth Day, we pause to reflect on the great work that has left a positive impact on our member farms. This work will help us achieve our shared U.S. dairy commitment to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.

Our cooperative isn’t content with stopping here. We continue to look for new opportunities to enhance current partnerships, seek new partners to team with, and work towards a better tomorrow for our members and the communities in which they operate. The future is bright for dairy and we are proud to be a part of the solution.

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