Richard Hughes is a first generation dairy farmer. It's not something you often hear; most Sonoma County dairy farmers are several generations in.
Alongside his wife Marilyn, Hughes has become more than just a dairy farmer. With 182 acres and almost 220 cows, he's a very successful one and a leader in the Sonoma County dairy industry.
The Hughes Dairy originally milked Holsteins, but in 2004 they sold their entire herd and switched to Jerseys. In 2006, after being approached by Albert Straus who purchases their milk, the Hughes also made the decision to become organic.
For Hughes, the biggest change in land management has been going from deep plowing to "essentially no-till". Hughes said none of his practices are set in stone; he's always trying something new to be a better caretaker of his land.
Alongside Hughes' work with his pastures, one of his biggest projects has been working on water conservation. Hughes diverts more than 7,000 gallons of water per day from a local creek. For six months, Hughes needs 1.2 million gallons to keep his dairy operational.
Hughes has worked alongside the Gold Ridge RCD and NRCS to build a rainwater catchment pond. The roof of his dairy barn was lined with pipes which collect rain water that runs underneath his barn and into the pond. The pond, which is 200 feet long, 80 feet wide and 19 feet deep holds 1.4 million gallons of water, more than Hughes needs, and should be enough for his operation until November.
Hughes is committed to bettering his dairy through both the care of his animals and land management, and his dedication to the environment has earned the Hughes Dairy/Westview Jerseys Sonoma County Farm Bureau's Luther Burbank Conservation Award.
Hughes will be honored at Farm Bureau's Love of the Land event on July 15th at Richard's Grove and Saralee's Vineyard. Alongside Hughes, the Mauritson Family will be awarded Farm Bureau's Farm Family of the Year and Tim Tesconi will be inducted into the Farm Bureau Hall of Fame.
The event is open to the public. Ticket prices begin at $65 for individuals and $700 for a reserved table of 8. Corporate sponsor tables are $1,250. To make reservations visit www.sonomafb.org/loveoftheland or call 707-544-5575.