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Environmental Science and Policy
L. David Smith
Facing market demands for greater economic performance and environmentally friendly practices, the Barstow family’s Longview Farm in Hadley, Massachusetts installed an anaerobic digester and four robotic milkers in 2014 while expanding its herd size by 50%. The Longview team has been able to see how these changes have impacted the costs required to operate their business, but they lacked information on how their actions affected their greenhouse gas emissions. The Barstow family has owned and operated Longview Farm for over 200 years and is undoubtedly the expert in their land and business, but the task of generating emissions estimates lies outside their area of expertise and work capacity. Prior to this research, Dano Weisbord, Smith College Executive Director of Sustainability and Campus Planning, and Smith College student Tessa Finkelstein began to develop an emissions profile for the Longview Farm by collecting expenditure data of the farm’s energy and fertilizer use from before and after the installation of robotic milkers and the anaerobic digester in 2014. We converted this data from dollar amounts to units of farm inputs in order to estimate the impact of these installations and herd expansion on Longview’s emissions. After evaluating several agricultural greenhouse gas emissions calculators, we designed our own calculator to compare emissions before (2012) and after (2019) herd expansion, installation of the anaerobic digester and robotic milkers, and subsequent changes to fertilizer use. Because enteric emissions from the farm’s herd overshadowed any discernible changes in energy and fertilizer emissions, final metrics are displayed in terms of Absolute Emissions, which covers all emissions determined by the calculator, and Operational Emissions, which excludes the herd contributions. Absolute CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) Emissions increased from 2,358 MT CO2e to 2,388 MT CO2e (1.3%), suggesting that the carbon sequestration associated with anaerobic digestate substantially mitigated the emissions associated with herd expansion, while Operational Emissions decreased from 298 MT CO2e to -702 MT CO2e (-336%). Absolute Metric Tons of CO2e Per Cow decreased by 32%, and Absolute Kilograms of CO2e Per Kilogram of Milk Produced decreased by 29%. These results indicate that the installation of the anaerobic digester and robotic milkers, along with associated changes to Longview’s fertilizer practices, have succeeded in mitigating the vast majority of emissions related to the farm’s herd expansion while improving milk production. Because these results have significant implications for dairy farms across the country, we recommend aid to farmers in obtaining and operating anaerobic digesters and robotic milkers to mitigate emissions while remaining economically competitive. Lastly, the carbon mitigation made possible by Longview Farm’s adoption of new technologies provides a new choice for academic institutions, including Smith College, seeking Scope 3 emission reductions. Although further research on the topic is still necessary, this case demonstrates that shifts in a dairy farm’s technical operations can have a meaningful impact on its greenhouse gas emissions.
© the authors
Asofsky, Hannah; Dillahunt, Hannah; Hammond, Avery; and Lewis, Storm, "Mitigating Carbon Emissions While Staying In Business: A Case Study of Longview Farm in Hadley, MA" (2021). Class Project, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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