Turns out, the secret ingredient of Pete and Kelly Mahaffy's fertile 200-acre dairy farm - a member of the Organic Valley co-op - is waste product from seafood processors.
Six to eight truck loads a day deliver shells and shrimp husks to their dairy farm on the Coos River during crab season's peak.
It's a nutrient-rich, slowly decomposing fertilizer the couple spreads thinly over pastures during the rainy months.
Sunny Cove Organic Farm located on Randolph Road won fourth place, $2,000 in the nationwide Grant-A-Wish contest sponsored by Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm.
The Grant-A-Wish contest asked organic farmers to submit ideas to help their farms maintain sustainability for a chance to win a top prize of $10,000. Two $7,500 and three, $2,000 prizes were awarded. There were 72 entries from 17 states stretching from Maine to California and the Sunny Cove plan was the only one chosen from western New York as a finalist. Sunny Cove Farm is operated by Jerry and Dottie Snyder and their eight children and has been organic since 2002.
An eastern Guilford County farm is the grand winner of a national contest sponsored by Stonyfield.
Reedy Fork Farm, operated by the Teague family in Elon, won the Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program. The Teagues will receive $10,000, which they will use to build a new, energy efficient feed mill to process organic grains for other organic dairy farmers in the southeast, as well as livestock growers and small farmers looking for local, organic feed.
"There's reality and there's perception," says George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, one of the country's biggest organic food companies. "And the perception is, consumers are saying they don't want any pollution in organic products. And whether that's realistic or not is another matter. But for sure, consumer perception is a real concern." Siemon cited a survey in which 77 percent of organics consumers said they would stop buying organic food if it contained GMOs.
Jerry and Dotty Snyder of Sunny Cove Farm in Alfred are national finalists in the Grant A Wish contest, sponsored by Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm.
The Snyders are one of six organic dairy farm finalists in the running to win $10,000 to fund a “dream” project to make their farm more environmentally sustainable.
A Greensboro area family is one of six organic dairy farm finalists in a national Grant A Wish contest, sponsored by Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm.
If they win, the Teague family could collect up to $10,000 to fund a 'dream' project for their farm. George and Cherry Teague, along with their son Taylor, operate an 800-acre organic dairy on Reedy Fork Farm in Gibsonville.
George Teague said if they win, he wants to get an energy efficient feed mill on their farm to process certified organic grains for other southeastern organic dairy farmers, livestock growers, and small farmers looking for local, organic feed.
Tim Zweber, 28, hopes to win one of two grand prizes in the contest. In order to do that, he needs people to go to www.CarharttRental.com and vote for him. People can vote as often as they like through the cutoff just before midnight Feb. 28.
Zweber is a partnership with his father, Jon, in Zweber Farms LLC. His mother, Lisa, and his wife, Emily, also work on the farm. They milk 110 cows, selling their milk to Organic Valley. They keep about 30 percent of their bull calves and also raise chickens and hogs. Beef, pork and chicken are marketed direct to consumers from the farm.
“Organic milk prices stay basically the same. Conventional production pays by what is going on with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), basically cheese prices,” says Bansen, who has been a dairy farmer for twenty years. Eleven years ago he joined Organic Valley. Since then, the co-op has grown exponentially. “When I started we had 205 members; now it has grown by leaps and bounds, with 1,600 members today.”
Pricing and slim margins cause the Willamette Valley to lose family dairies like Mallorie's in Silverton. The life of a big dairy farmer is a busy one with a lot of overhead. “The reasons why most farmers don’t operate like Mallorie's did is because you have to be big to get all the jobs done. Running a dairy is work. You have to figure out the processing, hauling, have a sales team ... rarely does a family have someone who is qualified and wants to fill all the unique positions,” says Bansen.
George Siemon, the CEO of Organic Valley, slammed the rulings, saying that the authorization of GMO sugar beets and alfalfa represents “a clear indication that the USDA is more interested in protecting the biotech industry than the health, safety, environment, and property rights of U.S. farmers and consumers who choose not to grow or consume GMOs.” For Alaskans, the approval of these new commodities sends a clear signal that the administration intends to move forward with its support of Aquabounty’s Frankenfish.
The Beidler Family Farm is counting on your vote. The Randolph farm is among a group of six finalists picked from a pool of 72 Organic Valley dairy farms across the country. The winner-- determined by popular vote-- gets $10,000 to build the project of their dreams.
"So I was very surprised to see ourselves as one of the finalists-- surprised and pleased," Brent Beidler said.
The Beidlers' big wish in the Organic Valley competition is to buy new seed cleaning equipment.