Natural Prairie Dairy is a family-owned, certified organic farm, led by Donald and Cheri De Jong. The De Jongs are extremely passionate about dairy and innovating the agriculture industry. Through them, NPD strives to do things the right way – for its employees, its animals, and its communities. In the areas surrounding their existing farm operations, the De Jong family is known for creating jobs and opportunities with solid career paths, and for practicing transparent practices to better educate consumers.
Transparency is important to many farmers, especially the De Jongs, to ensure communities and consumers understand the care that goes into creating high quality milk for their families. Backed by an impeccable record of meeting or exceeding all regulatory and compliance metrics, Natural Prairie Dairy is committed to following all regulations, and reducing our carbon footprint to help protect the future.
Why is Natural Prairie Dairy Expanding to Indiana?
We are third generation dairy farmers who have been blessed by opportunity. We believe in providing the highest quality organic milk to as many consumers as possible. Establishing a farm in Indiana will allow us to better serve our customers, and their organic consumers, in the midwest and Eastern region of the country. We are eager to apply the best practices we’ve developed over three decades in Texas, to create a best-in-class operation in the midwest.
How much water will you be using? Will it affect my wells?
Our proposed dairy wells are shallow wells (25-50 feet deep) located in the sand aquifer. Due to the wells being so shallow, the area of influence is fairly small only extending 1500 feet from the base of the well. There are no residences or other business located within this area of influence. The total amount of water being used by our dairy will be very similar to the amount used by typical irrigation wells in the county. We will not be using more water than has historically been used on our farm.
Should I be concerned about drinking water contamination?
We acknowledge there is a high water table in the area, and it’s important for us to have a proper plan in place. Consistent with Indiana and federal law, we do not allow any manure from any of our facilities to run off – this is a requirement by IDEM. The nutrient management practices we utilize in Indiana will be no different than current farming practices already utilized throughout Newton County and all of Indiana – and no different than the practices we’ve honed throughout our dairy operations over the last 50 years.
Do you have a comprehensive groundwater testing program?
We have been testing the surface waters around our facility for several years now to establish a baseline and we will continue to do so in the future. We are required to report this information to IDEM and the county on a regular basis.
Do you have a groundwater monitoring plan in place?
As required by our IDEM CAFO permit, we will install groundwater monitoring wells around our lagoon to ensure no changes to the existing groundwater. Our lagoon will be lined with a high density poly-ethylene (HPDE) liner. The contents of the lagoon will be the liquid stream after our manure processing.
Will you use herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides?
Our farmland will be certified organic, which means it is free of any commercial or synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides. No GMO seeds or inputs will be used. The majority of our land will be planted into a permanent pasture of alfalfa and grass on which cattle will graze. The establishment of a permanent pasture is beneficial for preventing soil erosion and aiding in nutrient capture.
How much manure will you generate and what is the handling and processing process? Will it smell?
Our advanced nutrient recovery process ensures we can utilize manure generated by our cows as fertilizer for our organic crops. Organic crops require organic fertilizer to be applied, and our animals’ manure is a primary source of that fertilizer. All manure will be handled and processed on a daily basis on site. It is important for us to separate out nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous because they are valuable resources for growing crops. Once the nutrients have been separated, we will have a dry product that will be applied in the exact amount that growing crop needs. Every farmer applies nutrients according to their growing crop needs. We only apply fertilizer for each crop’s intake needs, so there is never a surplus of manure applied.
How do you answer critics concerned with the Carbon Footprint from dairy farming?
Our carbon footprint continues to decrease as we innovate and use state of the art technology that is available to us. Our nutrient management plans ensure we are using our precious resources in a prudent and efficient manner. As we grow, we become more efficient, and are able to provide more with less.
Why is it important that you remain a family-operated farm?
We’re a family-operated farm, led by third generation dairy farmers with roots in Holland. We are committed to providing opportunities for our family. The next generation is coming, as we already have three nephews that work within our operations, with many more family members that may consider these great opportunities within our industry or organization. Our nephew, Will, will be the head of our Indiana farm. He and his wife, Erin, are eager to build their family and join the Newton County community. Additionally, there are benefits to the consumer in a family-owned farm. First: Commitment shows, and there’s no way to live your passions more fully than by working with your family. The pressure to succeed is also higher – and that spills over to the rest of the company.