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Schrack Farms continues to make innovative changes, educate consumers

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Interns Lilly Fries, left, and Riley Kaluzny, provide each calf their afternoon milk at their hutches. Kaluzny is a high schooler who is working part time to learn more about the agriculture industry.

LOGANTON — At Schrack Farms, education is just as important as providing high quality milk.

“We spend a lot of time educating consumers about where their food comes from how it gets there,” Doug Harbach said.

Harbach and many members of his family including his Dad, Jim, play key roles in the day to day activity at the farm located along West Valley Road in Sugar Valley.

Jim focuses his time on growing and providing crops for the cows while Harbach handles the dairy aspect with his uncle, Kevin Schrack.

To help educate the public about what they do, Harbach said they’ve given many tours of the facility to local schools and individuals. Something they’re happy to do.

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS Doug Harbach presses on the large tarp over the farm’s Methane Digester to showcase the amount of gas produced through the machine. The digester is used to power the dairy farm.

“We’re always willing to give tours for people wanting to know what we do,” Harbach said.

Harbach believes that educating those who aren’t familiar with the agriculture industry is one way they can combat the stigma that can surround large farms.

“There’s a sentiment out there that large farms are bad,” he said.

Harbach explained that with their size and resources they’ve been given more access to tools and equipment that can better help them take care of the animals which isn’t a bad thing.

“We feel that we’ve grown to this size to allow us to take better care of the crops and cows,” he said.

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS A group of dairy cows enjoy a meal before they’re taken to the parlor to be milked.

One of the many resources not necessarily available to every farm they utilize is a methane digester.

The digester takes manure and ferments it under a large tarp to create methane gas. The gas is fed into a large engine located under the milk parlor to power the milking process and other parts of the farm.

This system has saved the farm about $250,000 annually in electrical costs, producing about 1,750,000 kilowatts of electricity, Jim said.

The heat that comes from the engine is also used to heat the buildings in the winter and power large dryers which are used on a daily basis at the farm.

The digester is one way that Schrack is doing its part to reduce its carbon foot print and remain energy efficient.

And it doesn’t just stop at electricity.

After the manure has fermented for a month, it’s separated from liquids into solids, Harbach said.

The solids, which have practically no odor, are used as bedding for the cows and the liquids are used as fertilizer in the fields.

Since purchasing the digester eight years ago, the people of Loganton have been appreciative of the lack of smell, Harbach said.

“We’d get calls from people in Loganton saying ‘hey I’m having an outdoor picnic’ or something similar and asked us not to spread that day because of the smell,” he explained. “We haven’t gotten a call like that in at least eight years.”

They also use byproducts of other parts of the agriculture field to feed their cows.

Harbach said they have a veteranarian who helps them build a balanced diet for each cow to ensure they remain healthy and producing quality milk.

Due to a cow’s high fiber diet, they’ve utilized plant byproducts such as soybean mash — left over after its pressed for oil.

“A lot of what we feed out here is a byproduct of other industries,” Harbach said.

They also grow a large amount of its “forage” food for the cows. Those crops include corn — their main source of food — alfalfa and small grains like rye and oat.

They’re deemed forage crops because the entire plant is harvested compared to just the grain, Harbach said.

Schrack has become well known in the agriculture industry for its no-till style of farming too.

No-till farming is a technique which doesn’t disturb the soil through tillage. It decreased the amount of soil erosion in certain soils, especially in sandy and dry soils on sloping terrain such as that in Sugar Valley.

“We’ve traveled to four to five states outside of Pennsylvania to talk about what we’ve done,” Jim said.

The farm was even recognized by the International Dairy Food Association in 2018, earning the Dairy Farm of the Year Award for its use of no-tilling and among other accomplishments.

“We got that award for being innovative and promoting environmental stability,” Harbach said.

Schrack Farms has played a role in multiple boards and committees over the years including a Dairy Futures Commission for the state legislature.

Harbach serves on the 27 member committee which spent 10 months researching how the Commonwealth can better help the dairy industry through lawmaking.

Jim serves as a director on the Clinton County Conservation Board and the Water Conservation Board as well.

“We like to get involved in these things,” Jim said.

Anyone who is interested in taking a tour of Schrack Farms can contact Harbach through his email at dharbach@msn.com or by calling the office at 570-725-3157.

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