Dairy Sustainability, Grounded by the Farm, Episode 322 Transcript

September 7, 2022



farm, dairy, nature conservancy, farmers, soil, people, alex, dairy farmers, talk, land, cows, row crop, feed, janice, sustainability, big, helping, grazing, biodiversity, partnerships


Grounded by the Farm – Janice Person, Alisha Staggs, Alex Peterson

Grounded by the Farm —  Janice Person 00:03

Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice person, your host on grounded by the farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love. Everybody, we’re on our third episode talking about dairy. And each one of them has been really different. The first was farmers talking directly about what they’re doing as we took tours of their place. Next, we talked all about cheese. And today we’re going to focus on the environmental footprint. I know that something that I personally care about so deeply, it’s actually what led me to get involved in agriculture. And our sponsor, Midwest air a found made two incredible resources for this episode. One is with those organizations that are in college, I could have seen myself easily working for an organization, like the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, those kinds of environmental groups that are trying to do good in the world, I just found my place of doing good in the world and the environment by working in agriculture. So that’s where one of the others is, it’s a farmer here in Missouri. So we’re gonna have a pretty robust conversation. I love having multiple guests with really different backgrounds. Let’s start out just by asking each of them to introduce themselves. So I don’t get anything wrong. Alex, if you don’t mind, we’ll start with you. You’re a dairy farmer here in Missouri. Tell us a little bit about your operation.


Alex Peterson  01:33

Yeah, thanks. Good to be with you, Janice. I am a third generation dairy farmer in North Central Missouri and the part of the world that called the Green Hills region, because the ground the ground is just a little too Rolly, for for good row crop production. And a lot of it. Yeah, and so keeping those fields green is the best thing for them. And so because of that, we have a management intensive grazing dairy. Okay. And that is been a was a shift, we used to be a, you know, a conventional dairy back in the 80s and 90s. And then made a switch. And for both lifestyle equipment, managerial capabilities, and and people. It was a people shift also. So, sometimes those shifts happen, and I’m glad it did, because like it fits the deck that we’ve been dealt the best. Yeah, about 150 cows on about 1000 acres here in North Missouri.


Janice Person  02:29

So I have a couple of questions to follow up with you really quick. One is management intensive grazing. I know we’re gonna talk about that some in a little bit. But can you just give me kind of a nutshell definition in case somebody hadn’t heard that term before?


Alex Peterson  02:43

So management intensive is you can break it down to get there, but it’s every milking, so twice a day, the milk cows are getting a fresh piece of pasture. Okay, not on the same piece, you know, for two or three days in a row or week in a row. They are getting a fresh piece every day, and they do a lot better job of grazing everything then, yeah, instead of picking and choosing and then you’re kind of selecting plants for persistence. And, and instead they get a maybe they it’s kind of like kids, you get them to eat the whole plate. If they know that’s all there is. But if you just say, hey, go in the fridge and help yourself they’re gonna eat for cheese sticks, and they won’t touch the apple, but if you I love it enough.


Janice Person  03:27

We’re gonna talk. We’re gonna talk a lot about land use and the environmental footprint and stuff. The other thing is an easy question, but I find I have to know it from dairy farmers because they take such pride. What breeds Do you have?


Alex Peterson  03:43

Yeah, so another little where we kind of bucked the normal trend, we are what they call procross. Okay, years ago, we had the traditional Holstein herd. And then about 14 years ago Holsteins are phenomenal. dairy cow, that’s why they’re the number one breed, but they aren’t totally geared that well for grazing or putting miles on Okay, so if you’ve got the four seasons kind of cows, where they bring everything to them, and it’s a buffet, they’re, they’re phenomenal at that if my cows like more of the hiking camping type of cows go make your own, find your own food, cook it yourself, eat it yourself, putting the miles on Holsteins, that’s not what they’re kind of genetically, you know built for people can


Janice Person  04:27

choose those two options because I love a good four seasons but I also like the hiking and


Alex Peterson  04:34

yeah that’s it they’re both other great benefits to both of them so we have a three way cross that Holstein is a part of still okay then the next breed is millyard which is a French dairy breed and a dual purpose breeds they’re more of a beefy common a scimitar look,


Janice Person  04:51

and love Alisha is taking notes because she loves all this stuff. She lives deep in it


Alex Peterson  04:57

and and they have good components and it also helps As we recycle those as to the beef production, they have a lot better characteristics there. And then the third breed is Swedish Red, which is kind of a just a European jersey to an extent, but that’s a kind of a really good proven crossbred system and, and they say, serve us serve us really well. And they get along here and we get along with them.


Janice Person  05:21

I love it. So I mentioned the leashes taking notes, Alisha, I’m gonna get you to introduce yourself. It’s Alisha Staggs. And you’re with The Nature Conservancy, which is one of those organizations. I just love. You tell me what it is you do. And


Alisha Staggs  05:35

absolutely, yeah, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here and excited to talk to Alex. So I am the dairy program director for the Nature Conservancy for North America ag program. Yeah. So for anyone that doesn’t know about the Nature Conservancy, we’re a global environmental nonprofit, we’ve been around for 70 years, we’re actually the world’s largest conservation organization. We’ve got a huge staff of scientists, over 400 scientists, we work in all 50 states, we literally have boots on the ground in all 50 states. So it is a big part of what we do. So I head up our dairy program. So talking to farmers is one of my favorite things to do.


Janice Person  06:12

When I think of the different organizations in the environmental, you’re the ones I put with the leaf, because it’s part of your logo, right? And I think it’s maybe a kind of oak tree leaf or something, maybe. Yep, it’s on your, on your hoodie. It’s on a hat and the photo we’re going to be sharing the Nature Conservancy do work locally, as well as globally, right, you have to take it into account that different areas may have different things going on. So talking about dairy sustainability in the US may be different than talking about it in a country like India, or I don’t know where but certainly there are global differences, because there are differences even within some states. Is that right?


Alisha Staggs  06:57

Oh, yeah, we think globally, but we act locally is what I would say. And every farm is unique and different. And so unfortunately, there just aren’t one size fits all solutions for any any geography or any industry. And unfortunately, with sustainability, that’s usually the case, right? Everything depends. So you really have to get out on the farm, talk with the farmer, learn about what they’re doing. That’s why I was taking some notes on Alex’s farm because they’re all so very unique. Yeah. And the kinds of solutions or conservation practices that you’re going to want to potentially suggest or implement are really going to depend on just going farm by farm and seeing what the conditions are like there.


Janice Person  07:35

Right. So I know Alex’s family has been farming for a long time. So he learned some of that on the job. And then he’s also had education to help his footprint. What is your background, the my insurance


Alisha Staggs  07:46

I got here in a long, windy path that started out in northeastern Oklahoma upwind, which I know you were there just last week, I think or I’m coming this weekend. Oh, you’re coming this weekend. Okay, well, it’s the happening place to be all of a sudden. But yeah, I grew up I was born and raised in this area, kind of on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas. When I was born, I lived in a little farmhouse, my grandpa had about 200 acres and had beef cattle there. So I did start out kind of my formative years on the farm. Later, when I was a teenager, my grandfather had to sell the farm. So he had two daughters, my mom and her aunt, and there was no one to take over the farm. So I kind of from the beginning, I’ve always been focused on just the value, the values that I was raised with on the farm being close to my food. And there’s also just this kind of kind of a tinge of sadness, I think, in our whole family that the farm is not still in our family. Right. So where I that’s important to me, too. When I talk to farmers, I’m always thinking about, you know how long it’s been in their family, it really is a family business. Succession Planning is huge, you know, all of those kinds of things. Yeah, apart are part of sustainability as well, right. So I went from there to get a biology degree, I think people thought I would be a vet. I didn’t end up getting. I did a lot of field work and fun stuff. Throughout my 20s. I was Zookeeper, I did all kinds of different things, and then eventually got an MBA and got really interested in sustainability, sustainable ag, and also corporate sustainability, kind of the space between science and business. Yeah. And that’s where I’ve been for the last, we’ll say 10 years.


Janice Person  09:15

I think that’s an area probably over the last decade has developed so much. And Alex, I know farmers like you, isn’t it awesome to work with environmentalists who really want to get to know your operation, as well as what kind of changes may be useful and define there’s different, you know, kind of different values to your background and working with groups like this.


Alex Peterson  09:39

You absolutely yes. And Alisha talked about farmers being generational. And I think part of that is a great testament to how we view our land and our animals and our air. Like we’re not just trying to meet numbers for next quarter. We’re looking at a generational perspective, which I think is the right perspective. Question you’re talking to sustainability wise. But the maybe one of the downsides is, if you only have management change every generation, it’s a lot harder to loop in new and innovative ways to do things. And I think that that is a hurdle. But I think the beauty of partnering with the Nature Conservancy, you know, whether it’s national promotion, DMI, Midwest Dairy farmers in general, the beauty of that is, there’s not nothing but upside to learning what other farms are doing, what other practices are out there that you can possibly bring in. And, uh, one of the biggest benefits I have of going to a lot of meetings with dairy farmers is talking to other dairy farmers talk to experts in science and industry. And, you know, what’s the, what’s the old adage, if you steal once you’re a steal from one person, you’re a thief, if you steal from 10 people, you’re a scholar. And so that’s, that’s the beauty of what we do. And I think keeping organizations like the Nature Conservancy in our scope, right, not only better informs us of, of what consumers are seeing, or thinking. But also, I think Alicia would be a great resource for Hey, I see Alex, you’re doing this on your farm. I don’t know if you know this, but this is a really good sustainability story effort practice. Right? And that I may have been like, Well, yeah, I,


Janice Person  11:22

that’s the way we do.


Alex Peterson  11:24

It. That’s how we that’s how we do it. But not always understanding the science of why that is such an important thing to do. And so I think it’s a it’s a very mutually beneficial relationship. And it’s like any other relationship, if you go with the right mindset, yep, it can be very fruitful. And if you go in defensive, aggressive mean, or whatever, it’s, it can be very toxic. But I think dairy has done a really good job as a whole industry wide of saying, hey, we want these people at the table with us helping us and us helping them because they want to do good work. And you know, selfishly, there’s money involved. You know, the Nature Conservancy is a great avenue for us to say, hey, you know, we have their blessing on this project. And these big corporations that are saying they want to help sustainability wise, but don’t really have an avenue to do it. Yeah, farming is where the rubber meets the road, if you look at means motive and opportunity, we have motive and opportunity, just not always a lot of means. And so if we can get some of that, if we can get some of that coming our way, then then we can do things. And I think that’s, that’s that’s a really critical piece to why these partnerships are so important.


Alisha Staggs  12:34

Yeah. Awesome. I agree with all of that. I would just say, farmers and ranchers are our biggest allies on the North America ag work that we do without a doubt. So I think a lot of times people when they think about biodiversity, when they think about carbon, they think about ecosystems like the rainforest, right? They think right for us, their carbon sinks, they they hold some of the world’s most rich biodiversity, but kind of the underdog of the ecosystem world is the grassland, right? Our grass in the US are super important ecosystems, they’re a carbon sink. And they also hold all of our biodiversity, right, both plant and animal species. So we are working with farmers and ranchers to preserve those lands, we we don’t want to see those lands go on to development, we want to see them continue to be grazed that we want to see them continue to be managed by family farms. Yeah, so we really have. While we might seem like unlikely partners, we have the same goal in mind. We want healthy soils, we want biodiversity rich landscapes, productive lands. So it really does make sense. And the other thing I love about TNC is I think there’s about 775 million acres nationwide. Grazing Lands and I’ll talk a little bit more about grazing since you graze Alex but TNC owns about 500,000 acres of us grazing lands. So we really do work in this space. Right? Yeah. We we allow farmers and ranchers to use our grazing lands, we use them as a testing ground for best practices, demonstration farms, that kind of thing. So we really are in it.


Janice Person  14:13

I love it at community. Well, I’m glad you said you’d talk about the grazing because I gave I asked Alex enough about it. That I feel like I understand what he’s doing. Can you help me understand some of the environmental benefits because I love to be able to eat, you know, some fresh food here and then some fresh food there. But you know the environmental difference of that with cattle? What is that? Like?


Alisha Staggs  14:39

Yeah, Alex can probably speak to this as well as I can, but I’ll give you a little bit. So basically, with with the grazing lands, what he’s trying to do is not over graze, or allow the soil to be over compacted by his cattle, right. So you get that land, you give it a break and you give it a chance to regenerate basically


Janice Person  15:00

Yeah, and so compaction is something that we talk a lot about in agriculture. But my mother taught me about it very early in life, when we would walk across the yard in the same place all the time. Yes. And then the grass wouldn’t grow there. And even after we had stopped walking on it for a while, it’s still not coming back. Right. So it’s the same kind of thing that we’re talking about with our livestock, right?


Alisha Staggs  15:25

That is exactly the same thing. That’s a great, a great analogy for that. And these kinds of prairie systems, they contain a lot of soil organic carbon, I don’t think people understand that so much, you think of carbon being stored in trees, right. But carbon is also also stored deep underground, in these very intense kind of deep root systems that you see in the grasslands. And native species will actually store more carbon than non native. So someone who’s taking really good care of their land in the way that, you know, it was always intended to me is helping to preserve and protect those carbon stocks. They’re also keeping the habitat one in which biodiversity and their cattle can coexist, like they write for many, many years. And the same thing can kind of be said on the on the row crop side with like tilling and that kind of thing. So we’re just trying to minimize soil disturbance and, and keep the good native species growing. It’s also good for their diet, I assume outs,


Alex Peterson  16:19

you kind of live in this cattle are the best thing for the soil to to take that vegetation that’s going through photosynthesis and sinking carbon, and turning that into food for those plants. And for all the bugs and biodiversity and the birds and


Janice Person  16:39

mammals that my gosh, the prairie dogs, all that stuff.


Alex Peterson  16:43

My we all have crazy family members, my father, who is still very active on the farm, but at the age where he just does the stuff he kind of likes doing. Yeah. And he helps like


Janice Person  16:55

my retirement right. So he’s retired from any job he doesn’t like


Alex Peterson  17:00

I did he is raking pay for me right now. So I record this, which is I give him props for that. But he’s found this app, he takes pictures of bugs, and and plants. And it catalogs what we have never seen anybody so excited about dung beetles, the Mac guy, because that’s the sign of healthy soil, you know, and help the system. And those markers, those little markers are so key to understanding what’s really going on because you, you can’t analyze every square inch of every piece of soil, you just have to look at what’s going on. I think what I’ve been blessed with is generationally is, I come from a generation of farmers that understand what to look for, and what are the key signs. Okay, when do we need to start worrying about this piece of ground, or what’s a warning sign here. And I think that’s, that’s something that’s hard to teach, but to know what’s important. And what’s, you know, the natural flow of things, is a really big deal.


Janice Person  17:58

I love it, I love it. I think, to me, grazing is one of those things that it pulls in, it does pull in soil health, right, you’ve got the root systems pulling water from deeper down in the soil profile, you’ve got more filtration of water as it goes into the soils. I mean, you’re helping with greenhouse gases. It’s amazing how much soil can take that carbon in and hold it there. And I understand. I’ve been working with some PhDs recently that it helps you hold on to that water so that it’s there available for your crops. And it really could be kind of one of the keys to some of the issues we have in climate right now. Y’all are both nodding and I’m guessing, okay, well, people on the podcast won’t know you’re not


Alex Peterson  18:47

well, but it’s, it’s amazing. At least you might have some of this stats on this, but the organic matter that you’ve built up in the soil, right, with every percent of organic matter that you add the amount of water that that soil can hold is just phenomenal. Okay, when you talk about building soils back up and building up to an ATP and yeah, you hear kind of fear mongering things in the news about how in 30 years, I could be any topsoil left, and we’re all going to die. And, and, you know, and they’re always


Janice Person  19:17

gloom and doom on their headlines.


Alex Peterson  19:20

And I’m sure there are fields that are you know, going through that because of a variety of reasons, but there’s a lot of soils that are being built back up to really, really good levels. And you can you can tell a difference on a healthy soil and not healthy soil and how it produces and how it holds that water and how you make it through tough times. Now this year, we’ve we’ve had the most perfect weather pattern ever knock on wood, you know, and it rains two inches every week. It’s hard to beat but you can always count on that and so you have to be prepared for whatever


Alisha Staggs  19:51

that’s so true. Alex and what you said brings up a good point. The science really, it fluctuates widely right? Some people will tell you 30% Some people But we’ll say closer to 70% of our grazing lands in the US are degraded. But either way, there’s a great opportunity there to improve the soil health, right? It is reversible, you can take it from degraded to restored with regenerative practices. So I just think it’s a huge opportunity for carbon for water for biodiversity. And for production.


Janice Person  20:21

That’s interesting. The date farmer that we just had on actually mentioned that in the desert, some land has been reclaimed and built back up to where it could be productive that had gone just not useful, right. But based on what all we know now about how to work with soil and how to do it smartly, you can get it highly productive, which is good for the farm, good for the environment, all the wildlife benefits. I don’t think anybody loses in a situation where we’re improving our soils and our plant life around those. I know there are different areas that are specific interests to the Nature Conservancy, and I thought maybe we could talk through each one of them a little bit. The first one is about avoiding land conversion. I think you were I mentioned that a little bit. Yeah. But yeah, keep it in farming.


Alisha Staggs  21:09

Oh, yeah, absolutely. So we want to see these lands stay intact and stay working lands, right. We want to avoid land conversion. So that that is a lot of what you hear about, especially again, when you’re when you’re talking about deforestation and that kind of thing. Land, right. And it’s a bigger problem globally, than necessarily kind of in the US dairy context that we’re talking about.


Janice Person  21:29

But I wouldn’t say suburban sprawl can get into that area, right? Like, I mean, yeah, as homeowners decide we want more land and bigger spaces for homes. We’re usually doing that on land that somebody was farming. And there’s only so much land at a certain point, right. So I know another one is, is talking about the judiciously using things right. So how can we incorporate native plants where it’s possible? How can we have those nearby? How can we support wildlife? using pesticides judiciously? That all kind of comes into another area for you guys, and I can see how those all feed on each other. We mentioned that grasslands, but I think for some farmers, even making sure they have big buffer strips, yes, for sure. Between fields when you’re farming. And some of that may be helpful. Are there other pieces that you guys find?


Alisha Staggs  22:27

Yeah, maybe I can take you through just kind of in a dairy specific way. What I think are some of the big areas Yeah, and what we try to focus on. So on dairy, there’s really, if you want to break it down, it’s feed production if you’re growing your own row crops, or you know, for feed alfalfa corn, grazing, if you’re grazing, it’s thinking about that enteric methane production, which is a tricky one that happens. Due to the rumination, the specific process that happens in a ruminant energy management on the farm is a big one. And manure management is definitely a big one on the farm. And those will all vary depending on how you farm where you farm, okay, but those are all things that we work on in our various programs that we have on dairy are looking at. So I’ll tell you about one of them feed and focus is a program that we have. And basically what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to overcome any barriers that farmers have to adopting new practices, maybe they don’t know about them, maybe they don’t have the technical expertise. And almost always they don’t have the time or the financial resources to get started, right. So we’re really trying to overcome those barriers and realizing that change can look like a lot of different things. So this particular program is a cost share program. And we’ve got over 10 different what we call in scope practices and that can range from anything to so if you’re doing row crops, we’re talking about soil health practices, no till reduce till, you know, better crop rotation, all of those good things. On the enteric fermentation side, we are offering incentives to trial emerging feed additives. So there are some what we call feed additives or ingredient changes that you can make with the feed ration that have been shown to reduce that process internally and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from that,


Janice Person  24:16

almost like the Tom’s helps me with, right, yeah, or something. It’s, I’ve actually gotten to talk to some people that were working in that space and just what else can you do to help the cows process the feeds, which are things we can eat, but also not have that same issue that produces methane? Yes, it’s high.


Alex Peterson  24:35

And the hope is, as those developed and I think there’s some early signs that milk production actually goes up. Yeah, so they might it may be, um, you know, when when, when using live feed, producing less greenhouse gas emissions and producing more milk. Which is yes, but it just takes it takes intelligent people like Alicia, scientists doing the work to bring these new texts and these new techniques Looking phenomenal.


Alisha Staggs  25:00

A lot of these technologies were discovered because they were trying to increase productivity, not necessarily reduce greenhouse gases, a lot of times the environmental benefits of these kind of emerging technologies are just side effects that are able to be captured. And then we run with it if we find it. So really good things farmers


Janice Person  25:18

may not be keeping their eyes on some of those things are, they’re milking cows twice a day, they’re doing all these other things. They have cows calving over here. And they have I mean, there’s enough going on on a farm that they can’t necessarily always look at the big picture, the the details, and oh, by the way, let’s get deeper into environmental science than you are currently. Right. So I can see how that partnership really makes a huge difference on


Alisha Staggs  25:45

it does. And some of that piece is also just having the right feed mix, you know, basically the right recipe for the diet to make sure it’s been used as efficiently as possible, what goes in the cow comes out of the cow and that kind of thing. So making sure it’s as efficient with nutrients as you can be.


Janice Person  26:01

And part of that, just from my standpoint, Alicia helped me understand. I know you’re working with these different dairy organizations are you guys also working with like veterinary health and stuff? Because I know, feed rations is something a lot of people also ask for different expertise on their farm to come in and help them with


Alisha Staggs  26:19

you are absolutely right. I don’t know how many advisors Alex has. But it’s very common for, you know, farmers to seek advice from agronomists certified crop advisors, their veterinarians, nutritionists, all of these different folks, right, we’re not trying to replace those trusted advisors, we’re trying to work with them. So we do have a lot of agronomists and CPAs on staff, we have one veterinarian on staff, which I’m very excited about. But basically, when we go out, we’re trying to add bandwidth. Yeah, our folks that work at the State chapter, you would have a contact maybe in Missouri, Alex, and they could come out and help you working alongside visors. And like I said, it’s never a one size fits all. So working together to find solutions that work best. But on the row crop side, certainly, it’s all about and I’m not an agronomist, and then, you know, working with the working with the veterinarians and the nutritionist on the feed side.


Janice Person  27:10

And then the other piece is that you’re also going out the other side and talking to the supply chain of people that are getting the dairy products to me. Right. So you’re also working with some of those end users of dairy products.


Alisha Staggs  27:25

Yes, we are. The Nature Conservancy has a lot of big partnerships, kind of at the industry scale, I’ll just say to start with, we have a great relationship with their Management, Inc. and all the good folks out of Chicago, they have helped really going back 10 years to just set dairy on a path to be sustainability leaders. And we’ve seen things in the dairy industry that we just haven’t seen in other similar industries or supply chains. So, you know, as a collective group, these guys have committed to achieving GHG, neutrality, optimizing water use improving water quality all on their own. So it makes for easy partnerships, right when they’re when they’re already willing to do it. And we’re just coming in and saying how can we enable this to happen faster? Just how can we help you move really through those goals, and then what we call the net zero initiative, which is really a body of work of which the Nature Conservancy as part of but so are a lot of other folks. And we’re using that as a place to support progress towards all of these big 2050 goals. So like the program that I mentioned, feed and focus is an official NCI project, for example, but we work with lots of folks we work with Starbucks, Nestle, Nestle actually provided incentive funding that we’re offering to farmers in Wisconsin. So it really takes all of us it takes everybody in the supply chain working together, certainly all of the work can’t be on the farms, all of the financial burden can’t be on.


Janice Person  28:51

Well, I think that’s part of it. I think farmers like Alex and his grandpa and his dad, the idea of improving their farm, they are doing it with these generations in the future in mind, but they also are doing it with the reality of the checkbooks they have today. And sometimes they can not afford to do what may be an amazing thing. It’s kind of like all of us, right? So where we can find those partnerships where we really have common ground, it seems like a perfect fit for a firm like yours, Alec. Well,


Alex Peterson  29:22

and the other thing that is beautiful about the US dairy industry, and you’ve talked about this earlier about how diverse we are, I mean, the types of farms where they’re at the management skills, what they have for feed sources, and there’s 29,000 dairy farms in the country. At any given day, there’s hundreds of them looking to make big capital improvements for the next phase of their farm. Like it’s some big commercially owned business that it’s all the same, you know, rubber stamped cookie cutter process. There’s always somebody looking for some new innovative way to do what they’re doing and to do it with less inputs. Yeah, inputs are inherently you know, what are creating greenhouse gases and are what are inherently costing money and trying to get more output out of it. And the more efficient you get, the better it is for everybody initially. But you’re also right that there’s plenty of headaches on my side of the farm gate. And that’s why it is so critical to have like Midwest dairies our local branch of promotion, but the same Federation as DMI, which I get to be, I get to be a part of both of those leadership teams. But it’s so critical for them to reach out and not just, you know, 20 years ago, we would spend money on advertising, but now it’s like, you know, what, we need to leverage what resources we have to get the most out of our dairy co ops are processors, people like the Nature Conservancy, Starbucks, Nestle those on down the chain closer to Janice’s, you know, of the cheese store. Yep. But I think the reason why dairy has been so aggressive for the last over a decade, is that, unlike kind of corns, or corn or beans, when things are tough, you put it in a bin and you know, you can sell it next year. As soon as I milk a cow. I mean, the clock starts, the clock starts and it’s got to be it’s got to be within Janice’s reach in you know, 48 hours, 72 hours, but we’re exposed to the market every single day. So I think that’s why dairy farmers have been aggressive. So we have to stay not just relevant. But we also have to stay ahead on research on innovation on and on what consumers are demanding. And, and being environmentally conscious being sustainable is, is what they’re demanding. I think the beauty of dairy is that we’ve inherently been doing that just like all farms, you inherently do that. And yeah, and I think it’s an it’s an important kind of evolution of how things go. But I think we’re to the point now, where there is just a boom in what technology has brought to all of agriculture. And as the Internet of Things kind of explode out into the farm side to that just a lot more data and information. People like Alicia just just overwhelmed with that I’m sure that comes comes from all over and technology is great. You were talking about a technology improvements on on the actual feed production side. They have sprayers now that have sensors on him, it only shoots a small little jet of herbicide when it finds a weed that needs to die. So spraying the whole field. And they use like 90% less. And now and now we have a net we have drones that are


Janice Person  32:39

farmer who had NASA on his farm all the time. And that was 20 years ago or more. And I was like it’s wait like the rocket people like they’re helping you figure out how to be so precise on this. So I do think there’s this wild dynamic of research in different areas that can come in and can really be amazingly helpful. And I don’t want to buy any more of any product than I need to either at home, right, especially in today’s world, everybody’s watching what costs are and what benefits you get out of it. Right. I think that tightness is always been there on the farm, at least in my in my tenure, I’ve been working in agriculture off and on since the 80s. And we’ve hit some we’ve had some really tough times. And we’ve had some times where the belt could be loosened back up a little bit. But it’s never been really loose. Yeah, we have had such a robust, great conversation. But I’m worried I may have missed something. We’ve got some things that we can point people to on the Nature Conservancy’s website. I do think it’s amazing when you look at how many different environmental steps can be involved in something, soil and water and land and air, and manure and animals and all those different things in each and every family farm. And it’s really cool to see how they’re different partnerships and stuff that are coming along to make sure information is shared or that nuggets are pulled out of research and put into the hands of farmers who can use that information. And I think this conversation was pretty cool about showing some of that happening.


Alisha Staggs  34:24

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s something for people to think about, you know, all of these decisions and all of these factors when you go and pick up that gallon of milk down the street and the price that you pay for that all that went into that and just having that appreciation and that that value for really what that is.


Janice Person  34:42

I think I’m going to need a milkshake or something for the afternoon. Well, thank you so much, both of you for spending time with us. I hope that folks like me who really love ice cream and cheese and things like that. Take time to share this episode with friends that they know also love The environment and those dairy products because I think there’s a lot of people that look at food, like flavors embedded into that, but they also really have this interest in the environment. And so to know, the progress that’s continually being made, we’ve always got other things we can learn and get those Incorporated. I appreciate your time.


Alisha Staggs  35:20

Thank you so much. And


Alex Peterson  35:21

before we wrap, okay to stay with tradition, Janice, what’s your current favorite dairy product right now? My favorite episode? I feel like it changes.


Janice Person  35:32

No. So I really am a cheese person first and foremost. But I also will say my family we go through a decent amount of cheese in Chai lattes, because I love Chai. That’s where I probably use my milk more often. How about you Alicia, what’s your favorite there? Oh,


Alisha Staggs  35:49

man. It’s hard to pick. It is hard to pick. I will pick the cheese because I couldn’t live without it. If you send me to the deserted island, I will die. They’re constipated because I’m taking my cheese.


Janice Person  36:04

This I will eat them is in your area. Yeah, when we talked to that cheese shop. They they’re right there in Bentonville. So awesome. You’ll have to check them out.


Alex Peterson  36:12

Yeah, certainly go back and listen to that episode. Anybody if you haven’t heard the cheese episode? I didn’t think Janice has ever talked to anybody. So steeped in culture, as


Janice Person  36:27

well, I guess. I did. I did interview Nashville brewery about the barley that they were bringing in from the farm. So I may have gotten close. But Alex, what’s your favorite dairy product?


Alex Peterson  36:38

It kind of goes in seasons right now. I’m still in summer mode. So after a long day on the farm, a nice cool bowl of cottage cheese. Really, really hits the spot.


Alisha Staggs  36:52

That was not where I was not expecting that. No, no, I thought you’re gonna parent with fruit


Alex Peterson  36:57

sometimes. Or, you know, potato chips. I’m a monster. I know. I thought


Janice Person  37:03

he was going to ice cream. You know? Day. Cottage cheese,


Alisha Staggs  37:08

Cottage Cheese and Potato chips. Yeah. Oh, yeah. That was Yeah. Wild.


Alex Peterson  37:13

If you’ve never done Doritos, and cottage cheese.


Janice Person  37:16

I have not. That’s the food tip for the week, right.


Alex Peterson  37:21

Oh, let me check with your nutritionist. But yeah,


Alisha Staggs  37:26

I will. I will give a shout out for ice cream though. I will say having two small children. I have a seven year old and a four year old has given me a new appreciation for ice cream. Right? Ice Cream isn’t just a food. It’s an experience. It’s the best reward. It’s the best way to end, you know, a day that maybe wasn’t great or a trip to the doctor and it gets them to put their iPads down and actually interact with me. I’m serious. It’s like


Janice Person  37:52

it has nutritional value sorts and you can feel good about it. Yeah, perfect end to the perfect interview. Alex, I appreciate your throwing that to us at the end. Thank you guys. We’ll look forward to meeting up with you in person one day.

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