The Rodale Institute, a nonprofit that since the 1940s has been studying organic farming, welcomed dairy cows onto its Maxatawny Township farm last month. The cows belong to farmers James and Ida Burkholder, who own land next to Rodale. Rodale is helping the Burkholders transition their conventional dairy farm to an organic one. Rodale's farm director of 35 years, Jeff Moyer, is the subject of this week's Q&A.
Q: Where can I buy this herd's milk?
A: The milk that's being produced is going to the same place it was because it will take a year for those cows to become organic. Once it's organic it'll be shipped to Organic Valley. We do hope to be able to sell some raw milk once the cows adjust to grass, in which case they could buy it right from the farm of James and Ida Burkholder.
Bingham transitioned pasture and crops to organic, bought heifers and bred them, and when they calved out, the organic dairy commenced. The dairy started shipping organic milk to Organic Valley in November 2007.
The animal side was pretty easy, the feed crop side was tougher, he said. Without the use of commercial herbicides, the operation -- which also includes his two younger brothers -- had to turn to tight rotations and old-fashioned weeding methods, such as shovels and tillage equipment.
"It's almost as if we stepped back to my grandfather's time," he said.
Pick up a carton of Organic Valley milk, and you'll notice the company is based in La Farge, Wis.
But that doesn't mean the milk comes from Wisconsin farmers: Organic Valley bills itself as the "oldest organic farmer-owned cooperative" in the United States (founded in 1988). It gets its milk from a network of dairy farmers, many here in Central New York.
To underscore that, Organic Valley is launching New York Fresh, a new label that highlights the local nature of its milk producers.
The GRA has created a stars system based on how many points each restaurant scores across various categories. Two-star certified restaurants must have a minimum of 100 points, 175 points for three stars, and 300 for four stars. Currently, only one restaurant, The Grey Plume in Omaha, Neb., has received the coveted four-star certification. Restaurants from Mario Batali and Rick Bayless as well as corporations including Hearst and Organic Valley have received three stars from the GRA.
Renown Dairy sits in a high mountain valley – the Cache Valley – in the southeast corner of the state, just one mile north of the Utah border and 60 miles west of Wyoming. While not in the major dairy zone of Idaho, there are still many smaller operations in the area, Roberts said. Their dairy is actually comprised of four farms that run as two separate facilities – each facility has two adjoining farms. Ellis and Mary Jo live on one of the sites while David and his family – wife, Kayla, and children: Emily, Hannah, Herman, Lottie, Maren and Steven – live on the other, about one mile away.
The Robertses milk 250 cows. About one-half of the herd is purebred Holstein, and half of that is Red and White. There are also a few crossbreds.
Sarah Smith of Grassland Farm likes to talk about organic foods and the $36.6 million in sales it generates annually in Maine.
Smith, 29, will have plenty of opportunity to discuss all things organic Wednesday and Thursday when she travels to Washington D.C. to meet members of Congress.
"I'm excited," Smith said Monday. "I'm certainly a little anxious — I feel confident in my ability to represent organic farmers.
"I feel like I'm going there with two hats — one to recognize organic farmers in Maine, and two, to represent our cooperative Organic Valley — we're going to say we're a $620 million a year co-op with over 700 members and we want the voice of that collective to be heard."
TODAY Show diet and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom recommends organic milk as an important choice to avoid synthetic hormones and antibiotics.
Time to start the day, aka the coffee pot. Now there’s a new reason to rise – the nation’s largest organic farmer-owned cooperative, Organic Valley, has expanded their shelf offerings from the simple, yet classic, half-and-half, to now include certified organic French Vanilla and Hazelnut creamers (and they are dee-lish!). The creamer is a perfect balance of organic cream and whole milk (meaning they’re produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones or pesticides). Then the flavor comes from organic hazelnut and organic, fair trade vanilla, sweetened with only fair trade, unrefined sugar.
Organic growers say that, without safeguards, their foods will be contaminated by genetically modified crops growing nearby. The genetic engineering industry argues that its way of farming is safe and should not be restricted in order to protect organic competitors.
Into that conflict comes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who for two years has been promising something revolutionary: finding a way for organic farms to coexist alongside the modified plants. But in recent weeks, the administration has announced a trio of decisions that have clouded the future of organics and boosted the position of genetically engineered (GE) crops. Vilsack approved genetically modified alfalfa and a modified corn to be made into ethanol, and he gave limited approval to GE sugar beets.
The announcements were applauded by GE industry executives, who describe their genetically modified organisms as the farming of the future. But organics supporters were furious, saying their hopes that the Obama administration would protect their interests were dashed.