Organic Sense

In Whom Do We Trust?

by Gary Hirshberg  on March 16, 2010

Foreword from George:
This week, I am pleased to have Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield contribute to Organic Sense.  I have enjoyed developing Organic Sense as an outlet for my own thoughts, but have always felt that we should have other contributors like Gary and previously Theresa Marquez. Gary is truly a movement leader for the organic lifestyle and an influencer for social change at every level. We are at a turning point where the values we have long championed are evolving into a new lifestyle and life perspective for the coming generations.

I love that Gary focuses on the word "trust," because that is a foundation for any new paradigm. Everywhere, today, we are fed fear as a foundation which leads to isolation, separation and increased controls. A foundation philosophy of our cooperative called the “Gibbs Triangle” shows how a broad base of communication and trust fosters stability in a relationship.

Thanks, Gary, for the trust and this contribution.

Best, George L. Siemon

In Whom Do We Trust?

by Gary Hirshberg, "CE-Yo" of Stonyfield Farm

The past month has brought some tremendous news to the organic community. With the long awaited release of the USDA organic pasture regulations, a decade of debate and divisiveness comes to an end. When announcing the new regulations, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) ushered in a new “era of enforcement,” committing to all organic stakeholders that the National Organic Program is serious about protecting the integrity of the organic claim.

A stronger NOP will go a long way to help rebuild the public’s confidence in organic, which has been waning in recent years. But the NOP or any government program alone will never be enough. Confidence comes from trust, and trust comes from relationships. It’s why our 15 year partnership with Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative means so much to us, and frankly, is what really gives us the assurance that the milk we use to make our products is of the highest organic integrity.

We began working with Organic Valley back in 1995. We were looking not just for a “supplier,” but for a partner with whom we could work closely. How could we assure the integrity of our products without first having confidence in the quality at their very core—the organic milk? Quality extends far beyond the microbiological tests we perform on the milk when it arrives at our plant. It has to do with how the land and the animals are treated, whether the farmers are getting fairly compensated, and how the environment is being nurtured, from the smallest soil microorganisms to the local watershed. We needed a partner we could trust. Regulations, contracts and enforcement are all vital, of course; but ultimately, shared values, vision and commitment are the stuff which nurtures trust and confidence.

Never has the issue of trust been more important than at this time as people question and scrutinize the food we all buy. The grocery-shopping public is starting to ask questions, read labels and think twice about how we spend our hard-earned dollars. More and more of us want to know where our food comes from, how it’s produced and who is producing it. We want to know about ingredients, where they are sourced, how they are transported. We want to know how what we eat will affect our health—and our family’s health. We want to make informed decisions consistent with our values and our pocketbook. And we should!

We at Stonyfield are deeply grateful for our long partnership with the staff and producer members of Organic Valley/CROPP. Our alliance is based on a shared commitment to high integrity and deep organic philosophy. We know that every day the staff and producers at Organic Valley are working to maintain the highest organic standards. What other companies do you know that continually question how they can go further to attain greater levels of environmental restoration, nutritional quality, animal welfare and farmer well-being?  This commitment to organic excellence embedded in Organic Valley’s DNA is why we have such a deep and abiding trust in Organic Valley producers, staff and the great milk that we buy for our products.

The USDA National Organic Program is working to uphold their part of the organic trust equation. What remains are the shared values, vision and commitment. The internet offers us easy access to information and transparency about how our food is grown and who is growing it. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the companies we buy from, and to use our voting power at the grocery check-out to demonstrate our trust.

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