Sustainability is more than a buzzword for dairy farmer Steve Strickler. The Iola, Kansas, native has found ways to give back and preserve the environment, all while operating the farm he was raised on. After graduating from Kansas State University, Strickler’s career led him away from the farm as he worked for the national dairy magazine, Hoard’s Dairyman. However, the calling of the farm never left him, and Strickler returned to the farm in 1979.
Strickler’s commitment to the environment finds inspiration from his father, Ivan.
“My dad was the smartest guy I ever knew,” said Strickler. “He was a respected figure in the dairy community, promoted dairy around the world and encouraged our family to give back.”
The influence of his father’s encouragement is evident at the Strickler Holstein Farm today.
“In many ways, farmers were the original recyclers. We try to use everything we can and hate to see anything go to waste. This idea of recycling and sustainability is key to protecting our planet,” said Strickler.
On the farm, a flush system in the freestall barns separates cow manure solids from the water. This allows the solids to be reused for bedding in the freestalls or to be composted, and the water can be used as a fertilizer to nourish the crops grown to feed the cows. The compost made on the farm supplies a side business that serves gardeners in the community.
Strickler’s mission to protect the environment reaches beyond the farm. Along with a few other community members, he recognized Allen County’s need for a recycling program, as too many recyclables ended up in the landfill. After much discussion, the group decided to start one themselves.
The program had simple beginnings, Strickler drove around the county in a cattle trailer loaded down with plastic, glass and cardboard. However, they soon needed a new solution and the group purchased a baler that allowed them to increase volume dramatically.
The project was a huge success in the county and over 80 local businesses now have their recyclables picked up weekly. Community members can also contribute household recyclables at a monthly “recycling drive” where they can make drop-offs. Each month, Strickler and his associates bale over 50,000 pounds of corrugated cardboard alone, and sends another semi-load of plastics, glass, and other recyclables.
“How many times in life do you get the chance to do something simply because it’s the right thing to do? I’m trying to be the best model I can be for my kids and grandkids,” Strickler said.
Strickler lives out his commitment to sustainability by making a significant impact on his farm and throughout his community.