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The Methane Man Dennis Haubenschild pioneers manure-to-technology

January 12, 2010
By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today Editor
 
 

"Every 100 cows on this farm are producing the equivalent energy of a barrel of oil each day,” says Dennis Haubenschild, pictured along with his wife, Marsha.

Google "Dennis Haubenschild” and several hundred links pop up. Forty-some pages, in fact.

Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to E/The Environmental Magazine to Dairy Today has featured some aspect of Haubenschild's innovative dairy operation. Each lauds Haubenschild for his entrepreneurial skill, environmental activism or creative problem-solving techniques.

Leading research institutions, such as the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University, have partnered with Haubenschild in developing cutting-edge, renewable energy technology.

It's little wonder Haubenschild was selected as the 12th Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year by the International Dairy Foods Association and Dairy Today. He will be honored this month at the Dairy Forum in Phoenix, Ariz.

 

Haubenschild's interest in biogas stems from a "history class gone bad,” jokes Haubenschild, who dairies with wife, Marsha, and sons Bryan and Tom near Princeton, Minn. They and 34 employees (20 full-time equivalents) manage 1,100 dairy cows and farm 1,250 acres.

But the story starts more than half a century ago. In 1952, Haubenschild's parents, Donald and Myrtle, moved from the heavy, deep soils of southern Minnesota to Princeton, some 40 miles north of Minneapolis. When the snow melted, they discovered

that their deep, sugar-sand soils were depleted of both nutrients and organic matter after years of continuous potato production.

Wanting to dairy farm, they soon learned that every pitchfork of cow manure was a precious resource that could help to revitalize the soil, its water-carrying ability and its productive capacity.

"I never forgot that lesson. My thing back then was to be earth neutral—to give back to the soil what I took out of it,” Haubenschild says. "And that has evolved to being carbon neutral to being fully sustainable.”

That's where the history lesson comes in. In junior college, Hau-benschild researched a paper on Germany's use of biogases in World War II. Lack of access to oil, by both the Germans and the Japanese, contributed to the start of that war.

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FEATURED IN: Dairy Today - January 2010

 
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