Collaboration, innovation and sustainability collide

Written by Molly Schmitt
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Eight farms came together with DFA to start a unique plant project in Livingston County, N.Y. From solar panels to an anaerobic digester, Craigs Station Creamery is a model for environmental-friendliness, collaboration and innovative thinking.

Craigs Station, which began production on October 17, 2014, is designed to process customized, value-added dairy ingredients from rBST- and lactose-free to vitamin A- and D-fortified. Not only have the facility’s unique capabilities attracted both local and global customers, but the grassroots, farmer ownership is also a draw for today’s consumer. 

“Today’s buyers and consumers are very savvy and intelligent,” says Brian Paris, Craigs Station plant manager. “They not only want to know where their food comes from, but exactly how it is made.”

Brian has been with the plant since it was being built, and he is proud of the traceability Craigs Station offers.

“We are able to guarantee our source is one of eight farms,” Brian says. “We also have the ability to offer actual trips to any of our farms so they can be visited by our customers personally. In conjunction with animal husbandry, we have some of the best farms and farmers you would ever want to meet. They’re really top-notch people who love their cows.”

These “top-notch people” came together as partners in the Craigs Station project, each bringing their own ideas to the table. The eight dairies invested in the plant include:

  • Baker Brook Dairy
  • Coyne Farms
  • Lawnel Farms
  • McCormick Farms
  • Mulligan Farm
  • Noblehurst Farms
  • Southview Farm
  • Synergy Dairy

One of the creamery partners, Chris Noble, co-owner of Noblehurst Farms, says the collaboration between each dairy is why the project has been successful. Instead of competing, the farms share resources, skills and best practices with one another.

“Obviously, we’re all milk producers, but if we’re all part of the same cause, we can just get better together,” Chris says. “Rather than recreate the wheel, if you can find ways to work together or share ideas, you can make your business stronger.”

The dairies and creamery focus on sustainability in numerous ways, including flushing barns and parlors with reused water, utilizing vermicomposting to produce professional-grade organic plant food and generating electricity with solar power and an anaerobic digester.

“I would say that the most rewarding sustainability project has been the digester,” Brian says. “To take what is traditionally considered waste and turn it into energy is exciting.”

Craigs Station Creamery’s on-site anaerobic digester is fueled by waste and manure from each farm, food waste from the community and waste water from the creamery. Since April of 2015, Craigs Station has consumed more than 1.6 million kilowatts of green energy from the digester, which is the equivalent of powering 121 homes for one year.

The digester has led to another business, Natural Upcycling, that includes collecting food scraps from supermarkets, restaurants and other manufacturers. Everything put into the digester creates biogas, which is then used to power the creamery and reduce its carbon footprint.