One of the first things that you pass on the dirt road to Straus Family Creamery in Northern California is a pond. It has a white tarp over it, and you don’t want to get too close because the tarp is collecting methane gas -- gas produced by the poop from the ranch’s nearly 300 cows.
“The cows’ waste is collected. It goes through our methane digester that produces methane gas,” says Albert Straus, founder and CEO of the creamery, located in the Marin County town of Marshall.
Then the methane is used as the fuel for a generator that produces electricity for the entire farm.
“So we offset all of the electricity on the farm,” Straus says. “And now it powers the truck that feeds the cows that produce the manure.”
The farm has been creating its own power from methane for over a decade, but the poop-powered electric feed truck just made its debut.
The hulking, 33,000-pound red-and-white truck used to be fueled by diesel, but Straus worked with a local mechanic for eight years to convert it. Now the engine that would once rumble and growl purrs like an electric kitten.
Straus says the truck is part of a long-term plan to cut down on greenhouse gases and slow climate change.
“What we’re trying to do here is create a model of a farm that is sustainable for the environment, for the soil, for the animals, for the people working on the farms,” Straus says.
And it’s also the law in California. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that aims to reduce methane emissions from dairy operations to 40 percent below 2013 levels by the year 2030.
Straus says he hopes other dairy farmers can use his creamery as an example by putting byproducts like poop to work.