Sustainability can be a problem at many dairies, but in this blog series intern Alicia gets the deets on some eco-friendly cheesemakers from across the map. Find out what makes each cheese green, and enter the weekly contest for a chance to win an issue of culture.
We’ve talked about it before: sustainability is a global issue. It’s something that both domestic and international cheesemakers should be thinking about and working to improve. And what would this Green Cheese series be without talking to someone beyond the US border?
Enter family-owned Spanish creamery Santa Gadea. Touted as the first farm in Europe to be 100% sustainable and organic, they are also completely carbon negative—an impressive feat for dairy housing 1,300 French Alpine goats. Founded by Alfonso Pérez-Andújar and staffed by less than 15 people, the farm is located in San Cristóbal de Rioseco and focuses on both traditional and less conventional environmental strategies to reduce emissions. Though they’ve owned the property for 12 years, they’ve only been seriously producing cheese for the last two and a half years.
I spoke with Marta Milans, vice president of the dairy and daughter of Pérez-Andújar. “My dad’s passion for nature and trees is insane,” she says. This is good news, considering that their large property is very lush and green. Pérez-Andújar want to keep as much of the natural forest as possible, and began his reforestation efforts several years ago. Milans explains that “variety is important, because that way the fauna has many more options. You create a much healthier animal.” Over 120,000 trees have been planted to date, many of them pine or walnut. All of that extra greenery removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to which Milans simply says, “It’s a beautiful thing to do, to give back to Earth that way.”
Along with reforestation, the farm features solar and wind farms, in addition to less traditional eco-friendly techniques. Pérez-Andújar is a big fan of effective micoorganism (EM) technology. Discovered by a Japanese scientist in the 1980’s, EM technology is a precise combination of three types of bacteria—phototrophic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, and yeasts. Milans explains, “In a certain combination, it regenerates soil and earth in an incredible way.” When applied in the correct ratios to manure, bacteria will feed off gases, which reduces methane and carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent and speeds up the process of turning manure into usable compost.
Milans explains that this EM technology can have very diverse uses. “Once my dad discovered this, he decided to bring that technique into our farm. We spray all of our soil with it, we spray the food we feed our goats, and that’s part of the reason our goats are so healthy.” For the very brave, Milans also adds that people “can take shots of it and it regenerates all your intestinal flora.”
Besides the environment, the farm also places emphasis on family: Milan’s father Alfonso, the patriarch of the family, founded the business and strives to be eco-friendly. Marta’s mother makes the cheese, and her siblings (a marine biologist and renewable wind energy specialist) both help with the more technical ecological aspects of the farm. Milans herself works to find distributors and importers. Santa Gadea is already widely sold in European countries like Germany, Sweden, and England, and Milans recently signed a contract to begin selling their cheese in US Whole Foods.
And Pérez-Andújar has passed down his environmental views to his children. But perhaps Milans puts it best, simply saying, “You want to really respect nature. You have to work with it, not against it.”
This week’s contest question is: What values would you like to pass on to your family? Submit your answer in the comments below by Thursday, April 17th at 12:00p.m. EDT for a chance to win the current issue of culture. The winner will be chosen at random and announced in next week’s Green Cheese post.
Tune in next week to read the conclusion to the Green Cheese series, and find out how you could win a year’s subscription of culture!