Algae crisis: Dairy farmer aims to be part of the solution

Posted at 4:36 PM, Jul 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-18 19:04:14-04

At Larson Dairy in Okeechobee, there are 3,000 acres and 2,000 cows. That means a lot of cow manure.

“Put in a lot of best management practices to keep our cows comfortable and cool, and at the same time protect the environment,” said Jacob Larson.

That waste goes through a three-stage filtration process involving retention ponds on site.

“That water from the third stage will be pumped back out onto fields where the plant material that’s grown there, whether it’s corn or sorghum or grass, can take up the nutrients,” said Larson.

These improvements take time and money. This third generation dairy farmer says back in the 1800s, there were 45 dairy farms in the Okeechobee basin.

Today there are 18.

In the last year, Larson built a new storm water pond that collects not only rainwater for irrigation, but also water coming off the Department of Transportation project expanding nearby State Road 70.

It’s a $750,000 investment he didn’t have to make.

“These kinds of systems are what we have to do as responsible environmental stewards,” said Larson.

Why is it so important that any water leaving this property is cleaner? Because what leaves the farm first stops at Mosquito Creek, which eventually feeds into Lake Okeechobee.

Larson says he’s concerned about the algae like everyone else, and that we all have to play a part in the solution.

He says as consumers, we also contribute to the issue.