Sunday, 10 July 2016

Environment-Friendly Farming And Use Of GMOs By U.S. Farmers

By Paul Shalala in Homer, New York
Cattle at McMahon's Zacres farm in Homer, New York

As the debate over the usage of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) rages on in Africa, farmers in the United States think GMOs are good and have no effect whatsoever.

In the small village of Homer in Cortland County, northern New York state, is the family-owned farm called McMahon's Zacres owned by brothers Michael and Peter McMahon.

The duo bought the 2,200 acres farm from their father in 1986 and since then, they have run it as a dairy farm and invested over US$10 million.

During a recent visit to the farm by this blogger, the owners revealed that the farm has at any given time 700 fully grown cows and 700 calves.

Being a dairy farm, all bulls are sold off and calves are only milked for 32 months before being sold off as beef.

Due to lack of workers across the United States who can at a farm, Zacres employs five Mexican immigrants who milk the cows three times a day using some of the latest high tech dairy equipment.
A Mexican immigrant milking cattle

One of the Mexicans found on duty was able to milk 150 cattle within an hour.

"Americans don't want to be dirty. We cannot find anyone willing to do this job, that is why we employ these Mexicans because they are hardworking," said Peter McMahon, a co-owner of the farm. 

The workers are also responsible for sweeping the bans three times a day after every milking session.

The cattle is fed by maize grown at the farm and only a few nutrients are bought to supplement the feed. 

According to Peter, the farm uses genetically modified organisms in cultivating maize which is used as feed for the milk producing cattle.
Peter McMahon

“We grow our own corn (maize) here to feed all the cattle. We use GMOs in all our fields and this goes well with our crops because they do not kill any organisms. We will continue using them, we will not stop because they change to carbon dioxide after 30 days,” said Peter.

When asked if the GMOs were harmful to the environment, Peter said its actually non-GMOs which affect the environment and kill wild animals.

“A long time ago we used pesticides to protect our corn. One such pesticide was toxic. Birds would collect and swallow it. They would fly a few meters in the sky and later drop dead. But the GMOs are friendly to the environment because they melt and disappear."

He adds that at the time they used to apply pesticides, worms used to die in large numbers but now they are plenty in the fields.

One of the maize fields at the farm
The farm has also adopted environmentally friendly practices due to the high number of residue that comes from the cattle.

The 1, 400 cattle at the farm produce enormous amount of dung on a daily basis and mishandling it can cause environmental problems.

Workers at the farm collect the dung and store it in a storage family before its dried and scattered in the fields.

According to company records, the farm produces eight million gallons of manure annually and if discharged in nearby rivers and dams, it could pollute both the water and the environment.

“We work with an environmental consultant who regularly comes to taste our soil for levels of manure. We also store the manure and dispose it off in environmentally friendly areas,” said Peter.

He also said that every three months, workers pour lime across the farm to neutralise the manure once it is disposed off.

The company has also adopted a policy of not planting maize near rivers and dams to avoid chemicals flowing from the fields to the water bodies.

The farm is affiliated to environmental bodies
This farm is a major producer of Greek Yoghurt in New York state and employs a fulltime nutritionist who looks after the cattle's feed.

Its environmental programmes have even been approved by the Cortland County Agricultural Environmental Management which promotes soil and water conservation.

At the state level, McMahon’s Zacres is a member of the New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program which promotes animal health, food safety and environmental stewardship.

The farm works hand in hand with Cornell University whose extension officers monitor the farm’s activities and ensure standards are followed and animals are kept in good condition.

The university, which is located in the neighbouring city of Uthica, is the only major learning facility in new York state which specialises in agriculture.

And in neighbouring Onondaga County, farmers and county agencies are working together to protect the picturesque Skeneateles Lake from pollution.
Skeneateles Lake

The lake is the only source of water for Syracuse, the third largest city in New York state.

Over 50 farms surround the lake which is estimated to hold about 400 million gallons of water.

On a daily basis, the Syracuse Department of Water Affairs pumps 40 million of gallons to the city which is over 100 kilometers away.

“On a daily basis we treat this water. We use chlorine and UV system to purify it. We pump 40 million gallons of water daily to Syracuse and it takes six hours for it to reach the city,” said Mike Lynn, Skeneateles Water Plant Manager.

The lake has been supplying water to Syracuse for over a century.

Skeneateles area has 50 percent of its land covered by forests while 40 percent is farmland.

Authorities in the area are now partnering with farmers to ensure they do not pollute the lake which is also a tourist spot for people who enjoy water sports and fishing.

“In the past years, we have spent over US$40 million to preserve the water and protect it from pollution. We work with 42 farmers and ensure they comply with environmental guidelines,” said Rich Abbott from the Syracuse Water Department who has worked with farmers in the area for 30 years.
Mike Lynn

Mr Abbott said county inspectors tour all farms to ensure there is no discharge of effluent in the lake and make sure all farmers follow laid down regulations.

He also said farmers in the area strictly practice crop rotation to ensure chemicals do not spoil the soil.

“To protect the lake from farming activities, all farmers have planted trees between the fields and the lake as a buffer zone.”

The Skeneateles Watershed Agricultural Program and the Syracuse Water Department work together to safeguard the lake from polluters.

According to the Syracuse Water Department, Skeneateles lake is fed by over 150 rivers and tributaries.

The lake is one of the 11 so-called Finger Lakes which flow from southern New York state and stretch northwards closer to the Canadian border.

They are called Finger Lakes because they look like fingers on the map. 


  1. Felix Jonathan11 July 2016 at 16:28

    Our pride thank you for this information. Just make sure these are verified facts to avoid the #Linton like reports. #proud-follower.

  2. Hahaha thanks boss. We publish the truth always