Right away, I liked Organic Valley's “Our cow's love pasture!” approach to explaining why organic is better. Of course, many companies have mastered the art of persuasion with fancy language and graphics on product labels. However, this particular carton was full of educational information and facts.
Organic Valley boasts a grassroots campaign of teaching the consumer how to wear the smart-shopper hat and ask questions about the products they invest in. The company pats you on the back by saying “Congratulations for choosing products produced without antibiotics, synthetic hormones and persistent pesticides.” They go on to show you how buying organic milk is a win-win for the “soil, bees, cows, communities, the planet, the whole thing.”
In the face of this need, it’s great that local farmers such as Todd E. Huffman grow Organic Valley products right here in La Crosse. We need to take advantage of our local farmers to spread the wealth of the delicious organic foods that they grow. Organic Valley and other organic farms enable a healthy human livelihood by providing quality products that help to maintain the healthy lifestyle we need.
Remember, every time we stand in the checkout line we are voting for the type of food to survive, whether it is processed or organic.
For Russ Cary and a number of other Vermont farmers, the dairy business is looking up.
The Bridport dairy farmer milks 130 cows on the four-year-old Cary Family Farm. Last week Cary signed a contract with the Organic Valley milk cooperative. In recent months, Organic Valley and Horizon Organic, the two organic dairy processors that buy from Vermont farmers, have begun seeking new farms to add to their rosters.
According to federal organic standards, it will take one year for Cary to transition his herd, during which time he will feed it only organic grain but continue to sell his milk on the conventional market. Next November, Organic Valley will begin buying his milk.
Brown is the first Organic Valley farmer in the county to lend his likeliness to the co-op's newly redesigned milk carton.
Now people throughout the Northwest are having breakfast with Brown, grandkid Faith, and a cuddly little calf.
The co-op has seven other farmers in the county, more throughout the Northwest, and eventually they'll all appear on the cartons - different producers representing 1 percent and 2 percent milk - not unlike sports heroes on boxes of Wheaties.
Johan Doornenbal, 18, is the third generation of his Dutch-heritage family to live and work on a dairy farm, and he wants mid-valley families to learn more about where their food comes from — especially organically grown food and dairy products.
That’s why he recently joined a half-dozen other young farmers and agriculture supporters from across the country on a tour of college campuses throughout the northeast. The Generation Organic “Who’s Your Farmer?” tour was sponsored by Organic Valley, a cooperative based in La Farge, Wis., that represents nearly 1,700 farmers in 33 states.
Doornenbal spent Oct. 11-16 traveling in a specially painted biodiesel and vegetable-oil powered converted school bus, grilling cheese sandwiches and handing out samples of organic-based foods to students at Harvard, Yale and Brown universities and Bennington and Williams colleges.
Watching the nine-member Holm family prepare dinner in their kitchen is like witnessing a graceful ballet on a crowded subway platform. The dance, fine-tuned by years of practice, takes place in a modestly sized farm kitchen, one made smaller by an 8-foot table squeezed in for the sharing of meals.
The CEO of La Farge-based Organic Valley Family of Farms-CROPP Cooperative said Thursday he expects continued sales growth and more involvement in processing in the future.
The organic cooperative expects about $630 million in sales in 2010, up about $100 million from 2009, George Siemon told about 465 people at the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce Business Networking Expo luncheon at the La Crosse Center.
“We certainly have had a huge run” since the co-op began in 1988, Siemon told the group. Community support has played a big role in its growth, he said.
"Theresa Marquez and Bob Quinn have shown outstanding initiative and devotion to organic, and their contributions clearly demonstrate how organic enterprises and agriculture can thrive and make a difference to consumers, farmers and to our planet," said OTA’s executive director and CEO Christine Bushway.
When you hear the word farmer, it's tempting to conjure up images of the sort you read about in nursery rhymes: an older man wearing overalls and carrying a perpetual pitch fork. But while the median age of farmers in the US is 57, according to the USDA's Census of Agriculture, a new crop of young adults are out to change this.
They're known as Generation Organic, or Gen-O as they affectionately refer to each other, and they're the brainchild of Organic Valley, America's largest cooperative of organic farmers whose milk, yogurt, butter, eggs and cheese line the shelves of your local supermarkets and natural food stores. The company's coop of farmers has been in existence since 1988, but it wasn't until four or five years ago that Theresa Marquez, Organic Valley's Chief Marketing Executive, had the idea to bring some of their members' children, and other young people who were interested in agriculture. together.
A new report suggests that farming in Wisconsin has become a feast or famine operation. Agriculture is still a top employer, accounting for a tenth of the state’s jobs. But the big farms are ranking in all the revenue and often gobbling up smaller farms. Mid-sized farms in particular are struggling to break even, while small “hobby” farms and organic farms are actually increasing. But the overall number of farms has been flat for a decade.
The largest organic co-op in the country, Organic Valley, is headquartered in southwestern Wisconsin and has offices in La Farge and a distribution center in Cashton. Its 1,600 members hail from around the country and produce 30 percent of the organic milk sold in the U.S. Its chief executive, George Siemon, who goes by the title “C-E-I-E-I-O,” says the co-op tries to take some of the economic uncertainty out of being a small farmer.
“Sustaining the family farm is part of our bottom line. In some ways, we’re more like a social experiment disguised as a business,” he tells Milwaukee Magazine in a November feature.