Gas is where it’s at on Freund’s family dairy in Connecticut! Now, let me tell you more!
Amanda Freund is one of four children born into a dairy farming family. As the children grew so did the demand for more income. So her mother Teresa went from selling corn at a roadside stand to expanding the farm market.
A Methane Gas Digester
The family is full of innovators. Twenty-two years ago Amanda’s father made the decision to put in a methane digester – one of the first in the country.
The digester allowed them to make a useful product out of the manure that came from the dairy – thousands of pounds a day! The manure is gathered up each day and put into the digester where the methane gas is produced, which, along with solar is used to power the farm. Then, the liquid is separated from the solid. The liquid is used as fertilizer on their fields and the solid is used to make the family’s Cow Pots.
Cow Pots: Giving Plants a Healthy Home
The Cow Pots are another invention in the quest to have less waste and use than they had. They form the dried byproduct into various sizes of pots that are then used for garden plants. This gives the plant a biodegradable and self-fertilizing home!
I arrived at the farm, greeted by Teresa and rows of beautiful flowering plants. All planted in Cow Pots, of course!
The greenhouse is now part of Freund’s Farm Market. Teresa showed us around the market. She told us about the uniqueness of her store. She also talked about all of the vegetables grown on the farm which she not only sells at the store but also uses in her catering business and bakery!
During peak growing season the Freund harvest thousands of pounds of tomatoes from the greenhouses each day! Her youngest daughter Rachel also works at the farm full-time.
We caught up with her a bit too. We watched her tend to the flock of chickens which started as an FFA project when she was in high school!
A Family Affair
Once we were done at the store, I walked to a different part of the farm where I met Amanda. She is another of the Freund girls who have returned to the farm.
She balances her days between the dairy and Cow Pots. This morning she was getting ready to start feeding the waiting cows. She jumped up in the cab of a big front loader and got the silage she needed to mix feed out of a huge pile. Then, she switch to a smaller tractor with a wagon where she mixed the feed. Then pulled up to the waiting cows in the free-stall barn.
After feeding was done, she stopped for a minute to show me a few of the cool pieces of technology on the farm. This technology makes the farm much more sustainable.
Robots for Sustainability
She explained that they built a new barn a few years ago. It is the housing and milking area for their herd. From the great ventilation and airflow to the scratchers for the cows, it was clear that cow comfort is high on their list.
Then she showed me the robots. First, Juno which I thought of as a very large Roomba vacuum. It is a robot that automatically moves around the barn at set times to move the feed back up the bunks for the cows. She also pointed out the automatic scraper which removes the manure from the floor so it can be used in the digester!
We then crossed through the barn to the milking area. There, they had a series of robotic milkers installed where the cows are milked by the robots a few times each day. While I have seen robotic milkers before, the technology and efficiency are always impressive!
After we were done in the barn we made our way down to take a look at the methane digester. Amanda explained that it is very old: 22 years! But still works well for their farm. She explained the process from the top of the structure that holds the methane gas. There was no denying that the air was pretty poo-scented around the digester, but the efficiency and sustainability of what it can do are worth it!