The Washington Dairy Farm, the Anaerobic Digester, and Our Environment

by | Aug 14, 2015 | Food & Drink, Sponsored | 1 comment

It is really hard to introduce a topic that at first pass sounds… not interesting.

I want to be accurate with the title so you know what you are walking into. But I also really want to spray a little glitter on it because “The Washington Dairy Farm, the Anaerobic Digester, and Our Environment” lacks a certain… hook.

So please stay with me.

Stay with me not only because is it actually quite interesting, but because it is also quite important.

And let’s be honest, right now you are so curious about this “anaerobic digester” thing, aren’t you?…

*This post is sponsored by Washington Dairy. All opinion and experience are my very own. The Washington Dairy Products Commission celebrates the contribution of local dairy farm families. By producing wholesome and nutritious dairy products while also caring for their cows and land, local dairy farm families are a key ingredient to making the northwest a great place to live. Learn more at

In early July I got to visit a local dairy farm and got a really good look at what goes on at dairy farms.

Dairy cows at Werkhoven Dairy Farm

On the outside one assumes that milk comes from dairy farms and that milks gets to the grocery store and that’s the story. But there is so much more. SO much. During my visit I learned about the care, intent, and effort that goes into raising dairy cows. You can read all about that here, and can view my video on how to make berry and honey butter here.

A favorite dairy cow of mine at Werkhoven Dairy Farm

My biggest A-HA moment was when we were taken away from where the cows hang out to where… their poop does.

I guess MANURE is the more technical term.

Visiting the site of the anaerobic digester

They have a system that gets the manure out of the business of the cows and into the business of this anaerobic digester I keep talking about.

In a million years I never though I would ever find a need to put those two words together.



Aaaand quite disgusting.


Since you know that I am neither math-y nor science-y, I will explain it in terms only I can.

They take the stuff the cow doesn’t use any more (a.k.a. poop/manure) and whisk it away to through a system under the farm which also helps eliminate the gasses our atmosphere and noses aren’t fond of… and it ends up in the tank you see here below:

Visiting the site of the anaerobic digester

In that tank, some hard-working, environmentally-conscious people add other wastes (like cooking oils from restaurants and such). All those wastes make their way through a 1.5 million gallon faux cow belly over the course of 18 or so days. This faux cow belly is the anaerobic digester! At the end of this digestion process comes a couple of things – product for compost…

Visiting the site of the anaerobic digester - compost

and at this particular farm – energy for up to 300 homes!

Visiting the site of the anaerobic digester - 300 homes get energy from this system!

After spending 6 hours with this family… The farmers at Werkhoven Dairy…

Werkhoven family and farmers

I heard them share over and over and over their passion and commitment to environmental responsibility. It was pointed out that they need the land healthy too. This farm is their livelihood. They grow much of the feed for their cows. Aaaaand, they work with together and closely with local tribes as they all work together to use the valuable resource (land) well and responsibly.

Western Washington farmland

As technology changes, so does their own approach to farming and raising animals. At Wekhoven Farm they are not content with the great system that works. They continue to look forward and dream about what else they can do to DO better… not just for themselves but for the environment and the community they live in.

Werkhoven Dairy sign

As a girl who grew up in the farming capital of California, I have always know that farmers work physically hard.  Heck, I spend a summer pulling weeds in the cotton fields. It’s HARD work. But it wasn’t until this visit that I learned how far beyond physical labor a farmer must go. There are environment issues, many local and national government restrictions and standards and guidelines to keep track of and be held accountable to, and a whole lot of science.

So, there’s a whole lot going on with our milk producers than meets they eye. Next time you pour some yummy cold milk over your favorite cereal, think about the folks who are doing far more than getting milk on the shelves at your local grocery store.




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