One might expect that it was yet another in a long line of attacks on cows as major contributors to climate change. But this documentary features cows as environmental heroes, not villains.
Royal City dairy farmer Austin Allred boldly states cows are not the problem, but an important part of the solution to climate change.
To find a dairy farmer talking about climate change will come as a surprise to many. Allred, who owns two sizable dairy farms in Eastern Washington, is one of an increasing number of farmers who understands the world has changed. Environmental concerns and the importance today’s consumers place on how their food is produced have led many farmers to make substantial changes in how they farm. Some of those are documented on the website farmersforreal.org.
Awarded the prestigious US Dairy Sustainability Award in 2018, Allred’s Royal Dairy is becoming a showcase for innovation in sustainability. The new documentary highlights the BioFiltro worm-based manure management system as well as other methods the farm uses to protect the environment.
The farm was one of the first in the nation to use billions of worms to create clean water and high value worm castings from cow manure. Manure is the second most important output of a dairy cow, and as agronomist Dr. Stuart Turner points out in the film, without organic nutrients from cow manure, organic farming as we know it today likely wouldn’t exist.
In addition to using worms to recycle water, Allred and Turner show how the nutrient cycle operates on a dairy farm, and most importantly how farm practices can capture carbon from the atmosphere. As greenhouse gas expert, Dr. Frank Mitloehner explains, “There are really only two sectors of society that can extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and they’re agriculture and forestry.”
Mitloehner, also known as the “greenhouse gas guru,” is a climate change expert at the University of California, Davis. Allred has consulted with him on sustainability practices. The growing public understanding of the positive role that farms can play in addressing climate change is leading to state and national policies aimed at encouraging carbon sequestration on farms.
Allred and other farmers like him understand that it is one thing to do the right thing by the environment, it is another to inform consumers and the voting public that farming is changing for the better. It’s what led him to be one of the leaders of Eastern Washington Family Farmers and Save Family Farming, a state-wide farm advocacy group. The Seattle Times ran an opinion piece by Allred in November 2019 titled “I’m a Washington Dairy Farmer with a Lot of Cows –– Is That Bad?”
The documentary film, produced by Seattle-based production company BaronVisuals, was funded by Allred and can be found at https://vimeo.com/504635525/4d19b7d85e.
In promoting cows and changing farming practices Allred is showing that not only do farmers need to adapt to new expectations, but they need to commit to informing the too-often misinformed public about the facts concerning farming. Only then can farming have a secure future.