Schrack Farms named 2018 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year
By JESSICA WELSHANS
For The Express
LOGANTON — The newest recipient for a national agriculture recognition award is located in the heart of farm country in Clinton County.
Schrack Farms has received the honor of being the 2018 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year, an annual award that is presented by International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and Dairy Herd Management Magazine.
This award, according to the IDFA, “honors farms that are improving efficiency through progressive management practices, production technologies and/or marketing approaches. Nominees are judged on current methods as well as their positioning to meet future economic and business challenges.”
Some of these progressive management practices that Schrack Farms uses include the use of no-till on the more than 2,500 acres of cropland, their awareness of soil structure and its health, commitment to clean water resources and sustainability. These endeavors rocketed this multi-generational dairy farm into the forefront of farming practices today.
A nomination came from Pennsylvania’s own Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, with supporting comments by GT Thompson.
Jim and Lisa Harbach and Kevin Schrack, Lisa’s brother, are partners in Schrack Farm Resources, and they operate the farm with the help of their children and grandchildren, who now represent the 11th generation on the land.
Jim Harbach, one of the owners, spoke about the award and said it was a bit of a surprise.
“It was very unexpected and an awesome recognition, because it is on the national scope and to be recognized for being a forward thinking (farm) on a national level is awesome,” Harbach said.
He and Redding’s paths have crossed throughout the years, so Redding is well aware of the Schrack Family Farm agriculture practices.
Harbach said the farm practices and beliefs goes to more than just the borders of farming.
Family members and staff are involved in associations, organizations and other groups that promote dairy farming. Harbach sits on a number of boards, like the watershed, because there is concern and awareness about the health of the water, along with other environmental issues.
According to Harbach, the Schrack Farms has been in the spotlight for years.
For instance, when they installed their methane digester in 2006 – which produces power and heat, offsetting costs on the farm – Harbach said no incentives existed for farms who wanted to do this. He then went and testified at forums regarding this and was instrumental getting laws for digesters and related types passed.
Also, they have traveled all over the country, being asked to speak to many audiences about their practices and the farming they do right here in Loganton.
“We share observations and what we see and the type of land we manage to other farmers, and to dairy farms our size…we get the message out there,” he said.
Harbach expresses that it takes a team to make the family operations of the farm happen. This award isn’t just for the family, but also its to show that the 22 full-time employees, and some part-time, put in the hard work and help to make these kinds of recognitionS to happen.
“There is a lot…it takes a lot of teamwork and more than one person,” he said.
It is for these reasons the Schrack Farms was given this national recognition, and deservedly so.
Harbach and his wife Lisa attended the 2018 Dairy Forum in Palm Desert, California at the end of January where the farm was honored with the award.
In operation since 1773, Schrack Farm Resources has learned a thing or two about the natural environment and the importance of farming practices that focus on conservation. Today the family is managing a 1,100-head dairy herd while advocating for no-till farming, maintaining soil health and promoting awareness of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Schrack Farm Resources also was an early adopter of renewable energy technology and installed one of the first methane digesters in Pennsylvania. Now the farm generates revenue by selling power back to the grid and reduces electricity costs for the farm.
“Because of their advocacy and testimony to the benefits both to the farm and the surrounding community, our state now has a set metering law that allows farms to generate revenue from this energy stream,” said Redding.
Schrack Farm Resources is featured in the January issue of Dairy Herd Management.