On September 16, a group of 18 Georgetown McDonough MBA students visited Fair Oaks Farms, a sustainable dairy farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana. The visit was a part of Associate Professor Ed Soule’s Principled Leadership in Business and Society course.
Fair Oaks Farms is owned by Sue and Mike McCloskey, who started Select Milk Producers, the 6th largest dairy cooperative in the United States. The Fair Oaks Farms operation is an agri-tourism destination, built upon one of the McCloskey's six dairy farms. Visitors can see the practices and technologies they employ to minimize the environmental footprint of the operation and maximize the comfort level of the cows. The farm has about 500,000 paid visitors annually and a number of innovations, including an operation that converts manure into compressed natural gas that powers a fleet of tanker trucks.
Soule first became interested in the farm at a meeting on campus in which the McCloskeys explained their business model. He had once conducted research on genetically modified seed technology and was intrigued by their efforts to operate a sustainable dairy farm. When planning the trip, he hoped his students would get a glimpse of what sustainability looks like in practice.
“It's one thing to read a case about a sustainable business, but seeing it and meeting the people adds another dimension,” Soule said. “The other objective of the trip was for them to interface casually with the McCloskeys, to pose questions, and get a more nuanced understanding of the business.”
After the trip, Soule hoped that his students “came away with an appreciation for how the McCloskeys have managed to harmonize their commitment to the environment, their concern for animal welfare, and the imperative to improve the financial profile of their businesses.”
Emma Loughman (MBA’18), who participated in the trip, enjoyed learning about the difference between organic and sustainable farming and believes that the McCloskeys want to make agriculture more relevant to their consumers. She described the farm as an “epicenter of innovation.”