Text Reading 'The Road Home'

a journey to modern and sustainable farming

Leave traditions for family gatherings. Not their on-farm practices.

"In a high rise downtown." That's exactly where Brett Reinford could still be. It's how his mom, Gina, describes where he worked in Minneapolis before moving back to Pennsylvania in 2012. Brett's now-wife, Meredith grew up in Minnesota, hence the temporary move after they'd met in college. The corporate life only left him restless -- cloud-based supply chain management is far removed from getting your boots dirty. But here's the deal, to make a move back home to the family farm, he envisioned a shift in focus of their on-farm practices. Sustainability, environmental conservation, recycling energy -- and eventually, turning food waste into fuel. Fortunately for Brett -- who had no financial stake in the farm at the time -- his dad Steve and mom Gina, the farm's sole owners back then, saw promise in that path too.

Reinford Family In A Barn
6:08 A.M.

6:08 a.m.
The driving dairy

The sun is about 30 minutes from rising over the slopes and ridges of Mifflintown, Penn. on a fall morning -- where the number of cows milked at Reinford Farms nearly equals the 913 people that call the town home. It's the first of three milking times throughout the day -- accomplished with the help of their 22 employees and other family members. The milk is picked up daily and driven about 36 miles south to Carlisle, Penn. -- a Land O'Lakes dairy production facility where it is turned into multiple dairy products, including butter. It's even delivered to the nearby HERSHEY'S plant for the milk in their milk chocolate. Steve Reinford and his three sons, Brett, Drew and Chad all help run Reinford Farms after spending several years away. Their return to the family farm, however, was only prompted by major progressive changes in the operation. As a cooperative, Land O’Lakes is farmer owned. The Reinfords are one of the nearly 2,000 dairy farmer-owners and almost 4,000 member-owners.

"It is always a two-way relationship. You take care of the cows and they take care of you."
– Steve Reinford

Cows At A Farm
10:02 a.m.

10:02 a.m.
Poop to power

From outside and above, their most dynamic piece of equipment would attract only a glance and rarely a second thought. Manure from the cows was once considered a waste at Reinford Farms -- no longer, as now it’s one of the most important resources. The anaerobic methane digester processes about 450,000 gallons of manure per month -- which in turn, produces a substantial amount of energy. They installed it initially, to reduce odor for their neighbors. Each element of the manure is separated and used sustainably – the solid material is filtered, cleaned and dried then turned into compost bedding for the cows. The nitrogen-rich liquid is also filtered and used for fertilizer on their crops. Even the methane gas is captured which becomes the sole source of power and heating on the farm. Additional power is sold to a local energy company to heat about 100 homes in the area.

"The dairy operation has given us a solid platform to take the business in other directions."
– Brett Reinford

An Aerial View Of A Methane Digester

"I kind of thought Gina and I would be it. That we would be the last to run this farm."
– Steve Reinford

The Reinford Family
The Reinford Extended Family In Their Home

12:03 p.m.
The definition of family-owned

Inside their colonial-style late 1800's home, Steve and Gina Reinford host lunch for the entire family -- a regular occurrence, the kids and grandkids are not far away. The house sits only a few yards from where the cows are milked. Drew and Chad live within two miles of the farm. Brett, his wife Meredith and three kids live across the road. Brett drives an electric golf cart to work every day. When it comes to playtime on the farm, for the grandkids, there is always room to be creative, get dirty and simply be a kid. Perhaps this is the next generation of Reinfords to take on the operation.

2:17 p.m.

"I've never met a farmer who doesn't want to take care of the land."
– Brett Reinford

A Reinford Family Member On A Tractor

2:17 p.m.
Protecting the land

Reinford Farms is about 1,200 acres of land. Much of what they grow is harvested and stored to feed their herd of roughly 720 cows. They practice "no-till" farming -- which is a way of growing crops year over year without disturbing the soil. This significantly reduces soil erosion, limits the use of herbicides and helps retain moisture, so they can conserve water. Soil health is a key component of their on-farm practices.

A Close Up Of Corn And A Tractor
4:00 P.M.

4:00 p.m.
Getting wasted. Renewed energy.

Another semi rolls through the yard -- this time it's not to pick up milk, but rather to unload one of the hottest commodities on Reinford Farms: food waste. This is another source of revenue in a difficult dairy market. It comes from grocery retailers you most certainly have heard of. Pallets of food are discarded for a variety of reasons -- the least of which, expiration. Lack of shelf space, fluctuating cooler temperatures and many other reasons. The Reinfords keep about 4,200 tons of food waste per year from going to landfills and rotting. On their farm, it's processed then broken down in the methane digester. Methane gas is a byproduct, like manure. The gas is used to heat the barns, their home, dry corn and feed for the cows. It's an entirely sustainable and cyclical operation when it comes to utilizing on-farm "waste" and discarded food from communities that surround them.

7:01 P.M.

7:01 p.m.
Close of business

Farming is not a job – it's a lifestyle that you must be committed to. Brett Reinford holds the title of office manager, but, on the farm, titles can mean very little as you are devoted to doing a lot. The belief on Reinford Farms is that modern farming means listening to the consumer and being a good steward of the environment. Long hours are not uncommon – but it is always a labor of love for family, farming and the land.

The Farm Office

"Each of us left the farm and brought back a different perspective. That has helped run the business."
– Drew Reinford

Reinford Family In The Field
Cows Standing Around A Farmer

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