Corporate Circle Spotlight: Straus Family Creamery Using Agriculture as Climate Change Solution
By Peter Fugazzotto,
April 18, 2019
Climate change is an increasing concern for many local, sustainable family farms and food businesses in the MALT foodshed. The scientific consensus on greenhouse gas emissions’ danger is ominous. Organic dairy farmer and founder/CEO Albert Straus of Straus Family Creamery, whose own farm has been MALT-protected since 1992, is using agriculture as a climate change solution. Albert’s goal is to make his Marshall dairy farm carbon-neutral in the next three years and to be replicated here in Marin and on other farms throughout the state and the world.
A tireless innovator, Albert, son of MALT co-founder Ellen Straus, has long prioritized sustainable agriculture. His path to environmental leadership was influenced by the values passed on from his parents. Close to 25 years ago, he helped change the dairy industry by creating a demand for organic dairy milk. He converted his family farm to organic in 1994, which became the first certified organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi River. During the same year, he started the creamery, the first 100% certified organic creamery in the United States.
At the creamery, he eventually developed a collaborative relationship model that resonated with organic dairy farmers. This model prioritizes economic welfare and land stewardship for dairy farmers while meeting the need for local organic dairy products. Today, this farming model has expanded to include carbon farming, a crucial investment in our planet’s future aligned with MALT’s vision for making food production part of the climate change solution.
“My personal and company’s vision is to build a thriving relation- ship between farms, food, people and the earth. Creating a local, sustainable model where family farmers and rural are prospering is critical for the future of farming and succession to the next generation.”Albert Straus
On the Straus Dairy Farm and other MALT-protected properties, the regenerative practice of carbon farming is helping to move carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. In 2013, Albert launched his 20-year carbon farm plan, to reduce and sequester 2,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. As with other MALT-recommended sustainable land management practices, carbon farming improves soil quality and water retention, naturally increasing pasture production to provide cows with more nutritionally rich grasses for maximum grazing.
Creating (on-farm) renewable energy is part of Albert’s bigger vision of getting his farm off fossil fuels entirely. “Poop to power” is how Straus describes capturing methane from his cows’ manure and turning it into electricity. A methane digester, operating since 2004, produces enough renewable energy to power the entire farm, including farm vehicles, all equipment and Albert’s car. The digester has reduced the farm’s carbon footprint by 1,645 metric tons annually — equivalent to taking about 350 passenger cars off the road for one year. And in 2017, Albert introduced the country’s first electric feed truck after spending eight years working with a local mechanic to convert a heavyweight truck motor from diesel to electric.