Black Nubian goat with gray ears standing in a field

The Big Picture: Zero-Waste Packaging Improves Sustainability on a Farmstead Goat Dairy 

by Katie Spring, Outreach & Content Specialist at NE-DBIC

Before you get to Big Picture Farm you’ll drive along winding dirt roads, forests growing right up to the edges. Go another mile and you’ll see it: the fields that open amidst the trees, the farmhouse, and the big red barn that houses both milking parlor and caramel processing facility.  Run by Louisa Conrad and Lucas Farrell, Big Picture is a nationally recognized goat dairy making farmstead caramels and artisan cheese.

Recipients of the 2022 NE-DBIC Dairy Packaging Innovation Grant, Big Picture Farm is in the process of transforming their entire packaging line to zero-waste. 

Before they became farmers, they were artists, and infusing their creativity into their marketing and branding has led the farm to be known almost as well for their storytelling, photography, and goat art as it is for their award-winning goat milk caramels.  Much of that storytelling happens on their caramel packaging: names and line-drawn faces of individual goats giving eaters a direct connection to the source of the confections, while postcards tucked into shipments expand on the awards that all start with “the most delicious milk from our family of happy goats.” 

With an eye to the big picture of sustainability for the land, goats, business, and their family, Louisa and Lucas have consistently invested in sustainable practices, from managed grazing to installing solar panels on the barn roof.  Now, with funding from NE-DBIC, they’re researching and sourcing green packaging for everything from the tape and twine to the freezer packs and insulation used to ship caramels across the country.   

The goal: to eliminate virgin plastic from every aspect of their distribution. 

“Sustainability in packaging means that our product line is packaged with and distributed in environmentally friendly formats that are recyclable, compostable, FSC-certified, and/or climate-forward to help reduce our impact on the environment,” Louisa said. “For us, that means every aspect of our production and distribution –from the ingredients we use, to individual caramel and cheese wrappers, to folding cartons and cellophane bags, to corrugated shipping boxes, cold-packs and insulation, as well as even packaging tape, mailers, and shipping labels used for e-commerce shipping.”  

While their grant isn’t due to wrap up until summer 2024, they’ve already switched all boxes to 100% FSC-certified paper board made with wind energy.  They’ve also identified many suppliers of eco-friendly packaging materials, from compostable bioplastic bags made from wood fibers to compostable shipping labels to 100% biodegradable freezer packs.  

As part of their grant, Louisa and Lucas are developing a toolkit for other small to mid-sized dairy processors looking for sustainable packaging.   

Processors will be able to access the annotated directory of suppliers with details about product types, packaging environmental impacts, pricing, purchasing logistics, and contact information, making it easier for them to navigate the options for their own products.  This toolkit will be available upon the completion of their project in 2024 and will be disseminated through the Vermont Specialty Food Association, Vermont Cheese Council, University of Vermont Extension, and other network partners. 

The 2023 Dairy Product Packaging Innovation Grant is open now. Learn how to apply on the grant page.

Learn more about Big Picture Farm on their website.

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