Dollars and Sense: Bird Watchers as Allies

October 28, 2015 09:45 AM
Dollars and Sense: Bird Watchers as Allies


Gerald Fieser
Deland, Fla.

The Fiesers milk 600 cows and graze and hay 500 acres in east-central Florida.


Having almost three million neighbors within 50 miles of the only dairy left in our area puts us continuously in the spotlight.

Having a state park and a national wildlife refuge as close neighbors can intensify that spotlight. We have been able to continue to operate by being a good steward of the land and provide a rural vista that is compatible and enhances the conservation efforts of local, state, and federal governments.

With the ever increasing growth of people in the area, providing open green space counters some of the negative aspects of having a dairy farm as a neighbor. We have worked to develop positive relationships with various environmental groups, such as the local Audubon chapter, to support what we do.

We often have bird watchers viewing everything we do on our farm in their quest to find some endangered or rare bird. Several have become advocates for us as they learn what we do on our operation. While we don’t have the fanciest or most modern dairy, we have proved to be sustainable.

fieser_pricesWe have one of Florida’s beautiful springs less than one mile from our dairy. So nutrient management is of the utmost importance. We are fortunate that we have a soil type that prevents groundwater contamination from nutrients.

We have a phosphorous-based nutrient management plan and stopped adding supplemental phosphorous to our ration many years ago. Most of the manure solids are removed off the farm with an ever increasing amount going to organic farms that are increasing in the area.

Surface runoff is our biggest concern. We try to minimize water use by recycling as much as possible, with nutrient-laden water used to grow forage. We are looking at building a five-acre storage pond to store water from the rainy summer to be used for irrigation in the dryer winter months. With the current milk price, this will probably be postponed.

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