As Dygert Farms celebrates its tricentennial anniversary, what better way to mark the milestone than with a sustainability award win? The 260-hectare dairy farm in Palatine Bridge, New York, is the proud recipient of a 2023 Leopold Conservation Award – presented by Sand County Foundation in recognition of its “extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation”. The accolade is a testament to Dygert Farms’ continuous efforts to protect its land for future generations.

Dygert Farms is owned and operated by Robby Dygert, a thirteenth-generation farmer, and his wife, Shannon, who live on the farm with their four children. The couple took over the family’s farm and bought their first 65 Holstein cows shortly after getting married in 2009. Today, their milking herd has grown to 270 cows, and they operate a creamery where they process their own (also award-winning) dairy products.

Sustainability has been a priority for Dygert Farms for generations; it developed its first conservation plan over 60 years ago as a blueprint for crop rotations, contour strips, tile drainage, and pasture renovation. More recently, Robby and Shannon sought the support of the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District to protect water quality with modern improvements to the farm’s infrastructure.

Through collaboration with the Montgomery County Soil and Water Conservation District, the farm’s planner and New York’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) program, the Dygert family has implemented a raft of conservation practices to cycle on-farm nutrients for crop production, continually build soil health, and protect water quality. By doing so, they aim to ensure the farm’s long-term success.

For decades, Dygert Farms has relied on strip-cropping, which acts as a filter strip in the fields. Their crop rotation typically involves five years of hay followed by four years of corn. Although they use minimal tillage on some fields depending on the conditions, they manage most of their land with a no-till system. This approach helps to improve soil fertility, maintain moisture levels and prevent runoff. To further support their conservation efforts, the Dygerts grow rye cover crops on approximately 20 hectares of their cropland.

As Dygert Farms protects the land for the future, reminders of its past are never far away. The family farmhouse sits on land deeded to the Dygerts in 1723 by the Queen of England. And with a continued focus on conservation and improvement, this historic land can hopefully support and sustain many more generations.