The Innovation Center for US Dairy awards WI groups for supply chain framework

Wisconsin State Farmer
Jim Winn and Greg Siegenthaler, pictured at Cottonwood Dairy in Lafayette County, are members of the group honored with the "Outstanding Supply Chain Collaboration" award.

Farmers for Sustainable Food, Grande Cheese Company and Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance have received a nod from the Innovation Center for US Dairy with the "Outstanding Supply Chain Collaboration" award.

The three Wisconsin-based groups created a framework used in a pilot project that focuses on keeping the dairy supply chain healthy and viable through sustainability and community commitment. The project culminated in a handbook called "The Framework for Farm-Level Sustainability Projects," which outlines helpful conservation practices for farmers on the individual level and highlights the value of sustainability in every step of the supply chain. The Nature Conservancy, a partner and supporting organization of Farmers for Sustainable Food and LASA, also helped to write the handbook.

“Customers want assurances that the food they buy is being produced in a way that’s sensitive to the environment,” said Lauren Brey, managing director of Farmers for Sustainable Food, a nonprofit organization of food system partners. “Demonstrating this starts at the farm but also has implications for businesses throughout the dairy supply chain. The widespread input and support for this project, both financially and through direct participation, is truly remarkable.”

Lauren Brey

The pilot project created the concept of a "milkshed" – a watershed, but in the form of a local dairy supply chain end to end, from farmer to consumer. The framework can be replicated for other milksheds around the country and flexibly tweaked to fit a particular region. The project took place in southwestern Wisconsin over 2019 and 2020. Twelve farms, including eight dairy farms, analyzed their results, which are expected to publish in a report this July. Brey added that there are already other groups adopting the framework, including one in South Dakota.

“This effort builds on our members’ commitment to environmental stewardship, collaboration and transparency,” said dairy farmer Jim Winn, who serves as president of farmer-led nonprofit LASA. “The framework gives us a tool to prove to ourselves, our neighbors and those who buy our products that there’s value in being innovative in the field.”

The center awards organizations and companies across the nation for their dedication to environmental and economic responsibility and resilience as well as innovation of new technologies and techniques on the farm. The finalists for the awards are judged by an independent panel of industry experts.

“As with this project, true sustainability efforts will only be realized if the work is done in partnership across our industry and throughout the supply chain,” said Greg Siegenthaler, vice president of milk marketing and supply chain for Grande. “In order to really move the needle and see ongoing success around sustainability, we must continue to engage all partners in the process."