The Gen-O Award has been created to recognize young farmers in CROPP Cooperative who have demonstrated their commitment to organic farming, and preserving the family farm and rural communities through leadership, stewardship and innovation. As we look to the future of farming, we feel it is vitally important to acknowledge the farmers of tomorrow who will ensure that delicious, local, and sustainable organic food choices exist for generations to come. The Gen-O Award goal is to identify and foster the development within our co-op of the next generation of leaders of the organic movement.
Fourth generation farmers Tim and Emily Zweber have continued to carefully steward their precious 250 organic acres in Scott County, Minnesota, along with their milking herd of 90 cows, their family and the community around them.
CROPP Cooperative dairy products have benefited from the Zwebers’ dedication, too. Since joining the co-op in 2008, they have received quality awards for their milk every year.
Tim and Emily find much to be hopeful for in agriculture. They’ve seen a resurgence of their generation coming back to the farm. “Organic made it possible for us to farm the way we wanted to and support two families without expanding our herd or buying more land. There are a lot of opportunities in organic and in local and direct selling. It gives young farmers a way to get out of that commodity system,” they say. “It’s not easy. There are financial struggles, land grabs and resource issues that we have to deal with. But it seems like there’s more momentum to address those issues and create solutions than there was years ago.”
Tim and Emily feel that if it wasn’t for Organic Valley, they would not be farming. “The cooperative structure is best for farmers. We have a voice and the opportunity to be involved in leadership. We have access to a professional support system of vets, nutritionists, agronomists and animal care specialists. And we get tremendous support from our fellow OV farmers, especially within the Gen-O community. We’ve formed lots of friendships with farmers from east to west coast. We bounce ideas off each other and visit one another’s farms to gather ideas and see how we do things differently. We remember clearly the first CROPP Annual Meeting we went to. It was such a shift from where we had come from. People were excited and happy. It was like a big family reunion. There’s a culture of community in our co-op. We’re all family and friends. That culture really keeps us going.”
In 2015, Tim and Emily Zweber received Organic Valley’s Generation Organic Award. The Gen-O Award recognizes young Organic Valley and Organic Prairie farmers (ages 16 to 35) who have demonstrated their commitment to organic farming and preserving family farming culture and rural communities through leadership, stewardship and innovation. The Zwebers are a promising part of the next generation of leaders in the organic movement.