Helping MMPA Members Reach MAEAP Verification

posted on January 15, 2012 10:37am

See the full article from Michigan Farm News

The barns, homes and buildings on the Sharrard’s farm create a timeline of the 100-plus years of dairy farming the family has been involved in; new barns are tucked in between renovated buildings and the one-time family homestead is now an office and meeting area. The mix of old and new on the farm, including the county road that now runs through it — weaves a story of the farm’s history.

Throughout the decades of transitions, one thing remained constant — the Sharrards were dairy farmers. The first cows were brought to the farm in Peck in 1907. Today, the family team of Ken, Joe and Jeremy Sharrard manage the family operation with their wives, Marcia, Amy and Jody. This past August, Jeremy and Jody were named the 2011 MMPA Outstanding Young Dairy Cooperators.

“I always knew this is what I wanted to do,” Jeremy says of his involvement in the family business. “I started working alongside my dad at a young age, and after high school I worked
full-time on the farm.” Today, Jeremy and his father and uncle are partners in the 600-head dairy farm.

“We have increased our herd size over the years with our own replacements, steadily growing the herd to where it is today,” Jeremy says.

Jeremy and Jody take pride in being the 5th generation to work on the family farm taking a careful, yet progressive, approach to any changes on the farm, mindful of the history and the future of the farm. Recently, they are working on MAEAP verification by developing a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP). Through this process they have dug two lagoons, replacing the daily haul routine they were using and have eliminated cow pastures to prevent run-off into a nearby creek.

“We built two lagoons, one for wastewater from the milk house and runoff from the rooftops and one for manure,” Jeremy says. “We used to haul manure twice every day, now we haul it once or twice a year, and we have more control of the fields we put it on.”

The Sharrards test the nutrient load of the manure and the soil it is applied to, so they get the best use of the manure and protect the land. They currently farm 1,200 acres giving them ample space to spread the manure.

“We are finishing the reporting to complete the cropping systems verification, and then we will move on to the Livestock-A-Syst program,” Jody says. “We are already keeping the records and doing the right things, so we thought it made sense to complete the MAEAP verification process.”

MMPA has a team of member representatives ready to help farmers like the Sharrards complete the MAEAP verification process. Dale Ledebuhr, MMPA’s Environmental Specialist, works with members to mitigate their environmental risk and become MAEAP verified. He provides members with Air Quality Assessments, Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan assistance, and assistance the Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool.

“We believe all farms should work toward MAEAP verification,” Dale says. “The first step for MMPA members is to complete the Livestock-A-Syst. It is the one-stop shop to help members increase their understanding of environmental guidelines and will identify areas where members can further mitigate environmental risk, reduce the chance of a discharge or a RTF (Right to Farm) complaint.”

Jody agrees, “Everyone has different reasons for seeking MAEAP verification, but we believe every farmer should work to become MAEAP verified, regardless if they milk 15 cows or 1500.
The protection it provides and the statement it makes to the community about the care we take of our land and cows makes the process all worthwhile.”

MMPA has been a MAEAP partner sincethe program’s inception and continues today to provide the services its members need to complete MAEAP verification. MMPA members interested in achieving MAEAP verification should meet with their MMPA member representatives to begin the verification process.