Trumbull County dairy farm receives environmental stewardship award

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Garry Kibler, Jr., stands in one of the barns at the family farm, Kibler Dairy Farms, that he runs with his dad, Garry, Sr., and brother, Cory. The farm received the 2022 FARM Excellence Award in Environmental Stewardship for its use of solar panels and other energy efficiency upgrades. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

WARREN, Ohio — Garry Kibler Jr. was surprised when Dairy Farmers of America wanted to nominate Kibler Dairy Farms for a national award.

They’re just doing their jobs, as far as he’s concerned. He runs the family dairy farm with his brother, Cory, and father, Garry Sr. They have five employees in addition to the family who help keep the 320-cow dairy running smoothly.

How the Kiblers humbly manage their cow care, employees, land and energy use is exactly what makes them remarkable, said Laurel Theurer, farm practices representative for DFA Mideast Area. 

Kibler Dairy Farms was the recipient of the 2022 National Dairy FARM program Excellence award in Environmental Stewardship. 

“We nominated the Kiblers because they are an excellent example of what so many of our members are doing,” Theurer said.

Award

The FARM Excellence Awards were created in 2021 to celebrate farms dedicated to continuous improvement in one or more FARM program areas. 

The FARM program, which standards for Farmers Assuring Responsible Management, is a certification program launched in 2009 by the National Milk Producers Federation in partnership with Dairy Management Inc. Farms within the program are evaluated within five areas: animal care, antibiotic stewardship, biosecurity, environmental stewardship and workforce development. 

The awards are judged by FARM Farmer Advisory Council members and other subject matter experts. Winners were announced and honored Oct. 25 at the 2022 Joint Annual Meeting of the National Dairy Board, National Milk Producers Federation and the United Dairy Industry Association in Aurora, Colorado.

Solar panels are mounted to each side of the roof of one of the free stall barns at Kibler Dairy Farms, in Warren, Ohio. There are 240 panels on each side, for a total of 480 panels that provide about half the farm’s power. (Rachel Wagoner photo)

Solar power

Garry and his brother are the fourth generation of the family to farm the land. The farm began expanding in 1997 when Garry Kibler Jr. decided to come back after attending college. He went to Ohio State University after high school to get off the farm, wanting nothing to do with it. He ended up coming back, as did his brother. To make room for more families to make a living from the farm, they started building more barns and adding cows.

There are five barns now, as well as a double 12 herringbone milking parlor. They milk their herd of primarily Holsteins three times a day. The barns have thermostat-controlled fans that kick on when it gets above 65 degrees. The biggest barn has 60 fans throughout it.

To power all of that infrastructure takes a lot of electricity. That’s why the Kiblers decided to get solar panels about five years ago. 

There are 480 solar panels, 240 on each side of their largest barn roof, that offset about half the farm’s electricity use. The panels were installed by Third Sun Solar, of Athens, Ohio. 

He said even on a rainy or cloudy day, you can see the panels are producing something.
The panels worked so well at the farm that Garry Jr. had them installed at his house. He’s had them on his home for nearly a year.

“There were a few months where we didn’t have an electric bill,” he said. 

In addition to the cattle, they also farm more than 700 acres of ground to make feed for their stock. They use cover crops occasionally, when the timing is right for it. 

The farm uses a dragline to apply manure from their storage lagoon, which they do twice a year. They can drag up to a mile away from the farm. The manure is injected into the soil. It’s faster to apply this way, as opposed to hauling and spreading it using tankers. It reduces compaction, and the crops produce better, Kibler said. 

“We use less fertilizer since doing that,” he said. 

Work just finished on a compost barn to be able to stockpile six months’ worth of manure when spreading it isn’t possible. It was a big investment but one that will help keep the farm in compliance with rules and best practices around manure management.

Other Ohio winner

Another dairy farm in Ohio was announced as a winner of the second annual FARM Excellence awards.

MVP Dairy, in Celina, Ohio, was awarded the FARM Excellence Award in Animal Care & Antibiotic Stewardship for their “constant efforts to create the ideal environment for their cows, prevent potential illnesses and reduce the use of medications by following the FARM facility guidelines and best management practices.”

Through these awards, the FARM program recognized three farms and one evaluator who go above and beyond industry standards through their commitment to innovation and continuous improvement.

Other award winners include, Double A Dairy, in Jerome Idaho, which received an award for Workforce Development. Ruth McCuin, field service supervisor and FARM Program coordinator for Agri-Mark, Inc., was awarded the 2022 FARM Evaluator Excellence Award for her superior commitment to the farms she represents and the help she provides in ensuring everyone is working toward continuous improvement.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be reached at 724-201-1544 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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