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From the Newsletter (Vol. 1, Iss. 5):Featured Stakeholder–Jon Slutsky and Susan Moore, La Luna Dairy

January 8, 2010

[Source: Sarah Lupis for ILE’s The Salt Lick, Vol. 1, Iss. 5]

Jon Slutsky and Susan Moore, owners of La Luna Dairy, Wellington, CO.

This month’s featured stakeholders are Jon Slutsky and Susan Moore, owners of La Luna Dairy, a family farm in Wellington, Colorado. John and Susan, originally from California, moved to Colorado in 1972 so Susan could attend Colorado State University. While Susan majored in Animal Science, the couple started a hobby farm, raising dairy goats. When they couldn’t find loans to support that business, the couple switched to dairy cows, making a go of it with 64 cows and renting dairy space. The hobby-business quickly grew, and four years later, they founded La Luna Diary, a 60-acre farm on the outskirts of Wellington, CO. Today, they run a successful family farm with nearly 30 employees and 1,200-1,300 dairy cows.

A typical day at La Luna starts with a brief staff meeting with managers, after which John and Susan tour the facility, checking on the operation and visiting with employees. According to Jon, “Most of the heavy lifting comes before lunch.” There are a lot of daily tasks to juggle—from milking, to feeding, to checking production statistics, to managing manure. These days, most of the day-to-day running of the farm is handled by a few trusted long-time employees, freeing Jon and Susan to tackle other issues.

Being located in a small town, Jon and Susan have paid special attention to neighbor relations since they first moved in and started the business. “In agriculture in the past, people have tended to shy away from their urban neighbors, but as we get bigger and our farm has an impact on the community, we have to face that. We are one of the biggest employers. There’s no hiding us. So, we do our best to be good neighbors to individuals and the community,” says Jon, a founding member of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce. Although they are a conventional dairy, the couple still appreciates the growing “local food movement” and tries to be aggressive with community outreach. Says Jon, “We try to sell ourselves to people who don’t understand us, our jobs, and what we do for our country, our community. So, yeah, know your farmer. Know him well.”

The Institute for Livestock and the Environment and faculty in CSU’s College of Agricultural Science have been a great asset in helping La Luna Dairy be good neighbors to their community. When the farm grew from 500 to 1,500 head, “almost overnight,” says Jon, “we couldn’t help but stumble.” One of those stumbling points was waste management (and the associated unpleasant odors), so the couple became interested in that, by default, and they began working with CSU faculty on projects related to emissions and air quality, offering up their farm as a research site and providing data to scientists. The results from emissions studies at the dairy will be used to develop best management practices that can be adopted by other dairies on the Front Range. In the course of working with CSU, Jon had the opportunity to become a Commissioner with the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission, a position he’s held since 2007.

“It’s so important to continue to have good research. There is not a lot of data on ammonia or VOC emissions on dairies. There are a lot of regulations on these things by the seat of the pants without any substantial research to back it up,” says Jon. He feels fortunate that CSU is partnering with the dairy industry. “It shows that we are making the effort, that we’re going to get it right, so that we don’t have bad regulations or bad BMPs that would cost us dollars or prevent us from finding good answers.”

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