August 26, 2016

Senators Larson, Kennedy & Doyle Tour Connecticut’s Largest Dairy Farm in Ellington

Officials learn details of upcoming construction and anaerobic manure digester projects to improve facilities, efficiency and create renewable energy

photo of Senator Larson

Seth Bahler, the general manager of Oakridge Dairy in Ellington, talks about expansion plans and an upcoming renewable energy project at the farm during a visit with state Senators Paul Doyle, Ted Kennedy, Jr. and Tim Larson.

Ellington, CT—Senators Tim Larson (D-East Hartford), Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-Branford) and Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield) visited Oakridge Dairy in Ellington to learn about efforts by the dairy farmers to promote efficiency and renewable energy.

Seth Bahler, a fourth generation farmer who took over Oakridge three years ago, is preparing for the construction of a new centralized dairy facility that includes a modernized milking carousel. About 1,800 of the 2,100 milk-producing cows at the farm are milked at separate facilities on the Jobs Hill Road farm. Including calves—of which five to ten are born each day—Oakridge Dairy has a herd of more than 4,000 Holsteins.

Senators Larson, Kennedy and Doyle joined Bahler for a tour of the current facilities, and learned about his extensive plans for the property, aimed at promoting efficiency and quality of life for the herd. A separate project is being planned to capture the naturally occurring methane in cow manure for conversion to electricity through a biochemical process called anaerobic digestion.

“What Oakridge is doing here in Connecticut is groundbreaking. It was extremely important for me to bring in my senate colleagues who chair the state’s Environment and Energy Committees to see what Seth is doing in Ellington. This young man has the vision and the drive to take one our state’s oldest and proudest industries and turn it into an environmentally responsible 21st century operation,” said Sen. Larson. “By the time he’s done, I believe Seth and his team will have set the standard for other farming operations in the state and will be a model of good practices in farming and success in agriculture-based business. We need to take stock of what is working in agriculture in Connecticut so that it is reflected in our environmental and energy policies and strategies.”

Sen. Kennedy said he was impressed by the operation, and thanked Sen. Larson for bringing the group together to see the Bahler’s practices and plans firsthand.
“The ‘Connecticut Grown’ label has become a brand that is trusted for high quality, delicious local produce, all of which was on display at the very impressive Oakridge Dairy Farm,” said Sen. Kennedy, Senate Chair of the Environment Committee. “The Environment Committee works with Connecticut’s farmers to ensure that our state’s agriculture industry can grow and thrive. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to see and hear about the innovative strategies embraced by Oakridge Dairy and plan to stay in touch with them for suggestions and guidance in the upcoming legislative session.”

As Senate Chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, Sen. Doyle remarked plans for renewable energy at the site prove that farming can remain on the “cutting edge” of technology and energy production.
“I was particularly interested to hear about their plans to generate energy from agricultural waste by installing an anaerobic digester. Embracing green energy will help cut costs and increase the efficiency of Oakridge Dairy. I hope to hear more about this project as it progresses and would like to work with the farm to develop strategies that can promote similar innovation and success throughout Connecticut’s agricultural industry,” said Sen. Doyle.

Bahler says plans for the new milking parlor will “bring all of the cows under one roof” at a single facility.

“It’s climate controlled and more comfortable for the cows,” he explained, adding that the plans for the parlor were designed to capture as many efficiencies as possible.

Bahler is hopeful that the entire town can benefit from his project to develop a renewable energy source, which could be used power Ellington’s emergency service buildings in the town during power outages.

“In the future, we want to focus on education and bring school tours through the farm to show students how agriculture is practiced in the 21st century,” said Bahler.

The development rights to about three-quarters of Oakridge Dairy’s farmland have been conveyed to the state and will be preserved in perpetuity for agricultural use.

The farm produces between 18,000 and 19,000 gallons of milk per day, which is sold to Guida’s Dairy in New Britain.