Amish Farming Methods & Manure Runoff Raising EPA's Ire

amish buggy photo

photo: Sara Lauderdale via flickr

In many ways the Amish live up their reputation of living greener lives--low-power technology, non-existent consumerism, strong sense of community and DIY ethic--but when it comes to agricultural practices, just because you replace fossil fuel energy with the sweat of your brow doesn't always mean you're eco-friendly. Which is where the EPA comes in. The New York Times reports that poor manure management on many Amish farms has gotten the attention of the EPA.Too Many Cows Per Acre...
Read the original article linked above if you want the full report on the challenges of working with communities deeply suspicious of government intervention and outside assistance (not to mention sharing a telephone in the center of town), but here's the gist of the environmental problem: Too many cows per acre. Dr Donald Kraybill of Elizabethtown College says it's been a problem for 30 years.

Last September, [the EPA's David McGuigan] and his colleagues visited 24 farms in a pocket of Lancaster County known as Watson's Run to assess their practices. Twenty-three of the farms were plain sect; 17 were found to be managing their manure inadequately. The abundance of manure was also affecting water quality. Six of the 19 wells sampled contained E. coli bacteria, and 16 had nitrate levels exceeding those allowed by the E.P.A.

Manure & Fertilizer Runoff Creates Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone
Why does this matter beyond it being a local issue in Lancaster County, PA? All the runoff from manure and fertilizer runs into the Chesapeake Bay it creates an ocean dead zone, which the EPA has been working on cleaning for decades.

Lancaster County produces 61 millions pounds of manure per year; 20 million more than the next highest county polluting the Bay and more than six times that of most counties.

The solution? Working with the Amish to establish better runoff controls for manure and agricultural techniques that prevent runoff from reaching rivers and streams.

More: New York Times
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More on Sustainable Agriculture:
Green Mountain College Introduces New Intensive Sustainable Agriculture Major
The World Needs a Farming Revolution! Declares UN Report
Stopping Deforestation, Greening Agriculture Better Than Carbon Capture & Storage: UNEP

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