Long Green Farms is one of the oldest dairy farms in Maryland. The 264-year-old dairy in Rising Sun is a testament to the unwavering commitment of the Crothers family to nurture the land, honor the past, and cultivate a sustainable future.

“Conservation is the essence of our work,” Alice Crothers says. She and her husband, Caleb, own and operate the farm with its 600-acres of land and 145 dairy cows. The couple views themselves as caretakers, taking care of the land and animals. “Caleb is the eighth generation of the Crothers family to farm the same piece of ground continuously as a dairy since 1759. We want to preserve that legacy and carry it forward.” That requires fiscal and environmental responsibility, Alice says. “We must continue to invest in our herd, technology, and operational efficiencies to ensure the farm is a desirable place to live and work for our family and future generations.”

Dairy farmers, like the Crothers, are working hard to further reduce their carbon footprint and the impact milk production has on the environment. Farmers have long worked on reducing the carbon footprint of a glass of milk. In fact, over a recent 10-year period, it was reduced by 19 percent, and dairy farmers are determined to keep improving. The dairy industry is committed to being carbon and greenhouse gas net zero emissions by 2050.

With the goal of achieving carbon neutrality, the Crothers set their sights on putting in an on-farm anaerobic digester, a system that can be thought of as a mechanical stomach, that turns manure from cows into clean, renewable energy. “We would like to produce the electricity needs of the farm and add extra electricity back to the grid for community use,” Alice says. In June 2023, Long Green Farms was awarded a grant to do just that. “Our sustainability story is just getting started.”

Another project this year, the Crothers had a sand separator installed. At Long Green Farms, sand is used to provide clean, comfortable bedding for the herd. Cows sleep or lounge on these beds between 12 to 14 hours a day. “The sand separator will allow us to recycle and reuse 90% of the sand,” Alice says.

Last December, the Crothers received the 2022 Maryland Leopold Conservation Award, which recognized their conservation efforts.

The Crothers partnered with an environmental group to plant 60,000 trees along a creek that feeds into a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. These reforestation projects are called riparian buffers, and protect streams from storm water runoff, reduce soil erosion and reduce greenhouse gases.

Among other conservation practices, Long Green Farms uses no-till, a type of farming where crops are planted directly into the field without clearing previous crop residue. This practice helps prevent soil from eroding off fields, which protects the nutrients in that soil as well as nearby waterways.

To further prevent soil erosion, the Crothers plant 300 acres of cover crops, like rye and triticale, that are grown to “cover” and protect the soil during times when primary crops, like corn and soybeans, are not growing.

Caleb is the operational manager at Long Green Farms, overseeing animal health, field management and projects. “I see myself as his helpmate,” Alice says. Her responsibilities on the farm are equally important. Alice cares for the calves, orders supplies, manages the farm’s financials, payroll, website and social media platforms, and hosts the Adopt A Cow program where students can learn about how dairy farmers care for the adopted calves and about dairy farming in general.

“We want to connect consumers with dairy farmers. We want them to know who, where and how dairy is produced. We want them to know the love dairy farmers have for our animals and the environment,” Alice says.

Long Green Farms is a testament of dairy farmers’ timeless commitment to sustainability and a beacon guiding the way for future generations of responsible farming.

Farmer Alice seen during a live chat with students on May 9, 2023, wrapping up this year’s Adopt A Cow program.