Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy
For Arizona dairy farmers there exists generations of tradition, enjoyment and pride in working with the land and cows, as well as in providing a quality product that feeds our community. As stewards of the land, farmers make every effort to protect and preserve the natural resources that have allowed for this lifestyle.
Sustainability efforts are not often easy, but all in the dairy industry are committed to implementing conservation practices on their farms. “In maintaining over 3,500 acres and 20,000 cows, sustainability has always been one of our main focuses,” says Jennifer Millican, a second-generation dairy farmer at Stotz family-owned dairy in Buckeye. “We have reduced electricity usage by 50 percent after installing LED lights in the barns. Manure is recycled as a fertilizer for our crops. We also capture methane to generate energy in our methane digester. This produces enough electricity to power over 450 homes per year.”
As a precious resource that is essential in agriculture, water is conserved by being recycled up to six times on dairy farms. At Stotz Dairy, a drip irrigation system delivering reclaimed water was installed in the fields that grow half of the forage that feeds their herd.
Are these initiatives making a difference? Yes! Each gallon of milk produced today requires 90% less land, 65% less water and creates a 63% smaller carbon footprint than 70 years ago. And in recognition of their efforts, the late Senator John McCain presented Stotz Dairy with an Environmental Stewardship Award from the Arizona Farm Bureau in 2014.
While the environmental impact of the dairy industry is shrinking, the economic impact is providing a large, welcome boost! Arizona’s 80+ dairy farms and eight processing plants provide nearly 15,000 jobs and approximately 540 million dollars in annual wages. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the total economic impact of dairy products produced and sold specifically in Arizona is an estimated at 7.6 billion dollars.
Although these numbers indicate big business, most in the industry would say dairy farming is more than a job, it’s a way of life. Josh Gladden, a fourth-generation dairy farmer, manages Saddle Mountain Dairy in Buckeye. His great grandfather started a dairy in Gilbert in 1939 and is one of many farms that supply milk for local grocery stores, including Bashas’.
“We focus on providing Arizona families with a safe and wholesome product,” Gladden says. “With a priority on the quality of milk that we produce and the way in which we produce it, we plan to continue providing milk for many generations to come.”
This commitment from Arizona dairy farmers and producers is behind every glass of milk you drink. Visit arizonamilk.org to learn more and to find out where you can buy local dairy products to support Arizona’s farmers.