Focus on Sustainability
Okray Family Farms is a family owned company with a focus on sustainability and social responsibility. Our efforts toward local sourcing coupled with carbon footprint reductions, equitable hiring opportunities and fair trade practices have earned us a spot in the Vegetable Growers ‘Top 100’, and it is our goal to not only maintain these qualities but improve upon them as well, working to reduce emissions and stay as environmentally friendly as possible while still providing consumers with the highest quality product available at an affordable price.
Carbon Footprint Info
Okray Family Farms is conscious of the impact that farming operations have on the land and the natural resources, and are taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions, or the overall adverse effect that the operation has on the environment. That’s why, as of 2012, the company has mapped out their entire carbon footprint and drawn up a plan to reduce their emissions significantly over the next ten years.
The "Cool Farm Tool" (CFT) was used to create the Okray Family Farms carbon footprint map and their 10-year carbon emissions reduction plan. The CFT was developed by Unilever, The University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the Sustainable Food Lab in Hartland, Vermont. For more information about using the CFT on your farm to help make more informed decisions that reduce your environmental impact, please visit coolfarmtool.org.
Central Wisconsin Windshed Partnership
Okray Family Farms has been working with the Central Wisconsin Windshed Partnership at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station since 2000, adding over 25 miles of windbreaks to the edges of production fields to reduce the detrimental impact of wind erosion over the flat, sandy soils of Portage County.
Storing potatoes requires a constant cool temperature and low relative humidity, and achieving this requires the use of air conditioners or heaters, depending on the season. To improve efficiency and cut down on the amount of energy being wasted, the company has had both storage coolers entirely sealed with spray foam insulation and coated with a layer of thin cement. The resulting effect is a temperature that is held more consistently with the use of just a fraction of the energy.
Recently, an air curtain was added to the facility, between the packing plant and the storage coolers. The air curtain operates on pennies a day, blowing a steady stream of air from the top of the doorway down to the floor, and keeps cool air circulating inside the cooler while simultaneously keeping the warmer air out, which in turn increases the plants efficiency and frees up resources to be used elsewhere.
Another recent addition in keeping with the increased efficiency trend has been that of a new type of dryer; when the potatoes come into the plant to be packaged, they must be dried before they are sorted. In the past, heat and forced air were used and were escaping at an alarming rate, which was expensive and incredibly wasteful. Instead, the plant now uses a series of air knives to dry the product, which emit compressed air more precisely and at a higher speed, similar to the new types of hand driers used in public restrooms. With these new driers, the company is able to cut back on the amount of heat escaping the plant without being used, and exponentially decrease the amount of energy used to dry the product.
Quality Deer Management Association
Okray Family Farms is a member of the Quality Deer Management Association, participating in their program and working to improve herd and habitat management and monitoring. QDMA promotes the harvesting of deer depending on herd size and pressure, and works toward the health of the herd and the habitat they live in, which in turn improves the overall quality of the woodlands and other areas enrolled in the QDMA program.
Over the past few years, Okray Family Farms has been working toward moving from a 3-year rotation schedule to a 4-year schedule. Rotating each field between potatoes, corn, beans, and peas not only allows the soil a longer window of time to recover from the previous years crop, but also decreases pest and disease populations and helps to incorporate different nutrients into the soil each year.
After the crops are removed from the field each year, the soil is left exposed and vulnerable to erosion by both wind and water. To combat the harsh effects of erosion, all potato fields are planted with a cover crop after the potatoes are harvested – usually rye grass, oats, sudan grass, or red clover. This cover crop is left on the field all winter long, and is tilled under in the spring to add nutrients to the soil in preparation for planting the next crop.