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Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Minor

K&K Dairy: Environmentally Verified Farm 101

In the beautiful countryside of Westphalia Michigan, there’s a dairy farm nestled amongst the hills that cares about their environment, just as much as they care for their cows. Kristi and Matthew Keilen, owners and operators of K &K Dairy, have taken their farming further, and become an MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) certified farm. What this means, for non-farmers or those not familiar with the certification, is that all their practices and operations have been inspected and assessed based on the sustainability goals for the state of Michigan. The main goal of this kind of certification is to help farmers reduce things like pollution in the form of runoff or erosion. These kind of practices add to the health of the soil, as well as helping reduce input cost on fertilizers. Farmers can receive further economic benefits, such as increased access to cost share and technical assistance. There are four different categories of consideration for certification: cropping, livestock, farmstead, and forest wetlands and habitat.

The following are from MAEAP directly:

“The Farmstead System reviews potential risks at the farm site. This includes a review of chemical, fuel and pesticide storage, and wells. It may also include manure storage on livestock farms. This system is applicable to all farms.”

“The Cropping System reviews production practices that occur wherever crops are grown on the farm. It reviews risks associated with pesticide and nutrient application, erosion control, and record keeping”

“The Livestock System reviews practices related to livestock production. This includes manure storage, transfer and land application, record keeping, feed storage, and lot management. It relates to all types of livestock produced on the farm.”

“The FWH System reviews management practices relating to areas on the farm with woodlands, wetlands, and other types of managed habitats. This review looks at the management plans created for all of these land uses to promote and ensure sustainable practices are being implemented.”


K and K Dairy qualifies for the cropping, farmstead, and livestock systems, which I
says more about the sustainability of, and care put into their operation then I ever could. Not only do they know they’re doing things the right way, but everyone else does too.

The certification brings about a certain pride in the stewardship of the land, as well as being a product selling point. This helps differentiate their product from the other thousands of gallons of Michigan milk. Then as they venture further into possibly making cheese or other products this can also be a good label promotion. A lot of marketing research shows that many consumers do not understand “sustainable” labels or other labels showing things like MAEAP. I don’t think this should hold farmers back from including the certification in their practice though, rather I think it should encourage them. If we can get more farmers on board, and spread both farmer and consumer awareness not only would we be making environmentally healthier
decisions, but we would help shape an overall healthier community. Rather than having consumers confused or misguided, we could have them demanding this of all their farms. I think this is a hope of many farmers in the program including the Keilen’s. They work extensively with the public on food education, hosting many tours and other community events.


As a Michigan Native it really warms my heart to see farms like this care about their environmental impact. It makes me even prouder to see an understanding and mitigation of the pollutants that would otherwise end up in our wonderful water systems. Since cattle are one of the largest greenhouse gas producers in our food systems, I think we need this understanding now more than ever; especially since we plan on farming for future generations. For those of you interested in learning about MAEAP or dairy operations more directly K and K dairy is one of the best and most welcoming places to do it. I also can’t thank them enough for taking time out of their schedule to host and enlighten our CSS 224 class. I’m just over the Moo(n) for their sustainability.

K&K Dairy