George Siemon, CEO of the Organic Valley Co-op of 1,600 farmers, is not worried that consumers trying to save money will abandon organic milk and other products for lower cost non-organic foods. While sales growth did slow during the recession, Siemon says demand for organic products is connected less to the business cycle and more to how educated customers are about food. “Organics is an education issue, not a recession issue,” he says in an interview at Bloomberg’s offices in New York today.
Six Democratic senators and 50 House member are urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack not to approve the commercialization of Monsanto Co.’s genetically modified alfalfa. The Supreme Court this week cleared the way for Vilsack too permit the sale of the biotech seed again by lifting a judge’s nationwide ban on the crop.
Organic Valley member and spokesman Jon Bansen, co-owner of Double J Jerseys in Oregon, is quick to agree that raw milk is "the hot topic of all times in the dairy industry."
But Bansen said that when all is said and done, the board's vote wasn't about the safety of raw milk or consumers' rights to choose what they eat or drink but rather what the mission of the cooperative is: organic dairy farmers banding together to market their milk under a common brand.
"We're not in the business of selling raw milk," Bansen said. "It's not our business model."
Bansen said some members have been making a business of selling raw milk and using Organic Valley to balance out their milk supply.
Before he was a scientist or "serial careerist," Scott Harding was an "ice-cream fan and devotee."
Before Harding composed ice-cream "formulas" on computer spreadsheets and referred to dessert in terms of "solid, liquid and gas," he churned batches by hand in a wooden bucket.
Fifteen years after receiving his first ice-cream maker, Harding applies scientific precision to his home-style harbinger of summertime.
Using milk and cream from the Organic Valley co-op of dairy farms, Harding brags of being the only organic, artisanal ice-cream producer between San Francisco and Seattle. To make the base, Harding adds certified-organic sugar and eggs. Flavoring agents, whether fruit, coffee, herbs or spices, also are organic, Harding says, even if the source isn't certified. Many local sources of high-quality foods, he adds, are not.
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The social enterprise—a sustainable business that creates social or environmental value alongside profit—is no longer a niche concept. Social entrepreneurs inhabit nearly every sector of the economy, from banking and insurance to energy and manufacturing. That breadth is evident in Bloomberg Businessweek's second annual U.S. roundup of promising social entrepreneurs.
With Organic Valley already adding jobs, the village of La Farge will receive nearly $1 million in federal aid to build infrastructure for its growing organic food industry.
The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Admini-stration announced the $990,286 grant this week, saying the investment will fund a road extension, street lights, sewers and water mains to a site where the village anticipates Organic Valley could build another facility.
Watching Little House on the Prairie while growing up (more times than one should admit to in a blog) led me to be fascinated with people who could make things themselves at home, instead of running to the store. This probably explains why I spent most of my time at Maker Faire in the Homegrown Village, where food growers, tofu makers, coffee roasters, and all sort of homesteading experts and food DIYers converged under one tent. Maker Faire is about getting your hands into projects and learning how to do "it" yourself. I didn't try the tofu and yogurt making, but did check out the butter making workshop with California Organic Valley farmers. Now I went in thinking any butter I made would a) require a churn or a food processor, b) take a long time and c) taste gross. Happily I can report I was wrong on all counts. You can make butter by hand, it is pretty easy, it takes only ten minutes and it tastes delicious.
For years, the state has watched textile mills close and tobacco farms turn to seed. More recently, technology jobs have been lost, and the state has 10 percent unemployment.
But at N.C. State University, there's a woman quietly bringing together farmers, businesses, politicians and individuals to nurture a new economic sector in North Carolina: locally grown organic food.
Nancy Creamer, director of N.C. State University's Center for Environmental Farming Systems, is cultivating sustainable, organic farms and the infrastructure they need to get their food to market across the state. It's a plan that she hopes will create small businesses and jobs, as well as boost local economies that have lost jobs to overseas competitors.
It's a fascinating experiment. Paying farmers to flood their fields instead of planting them to create habitat for shorebirds. On average 35,000 to 40,000 shorebirds stop to feed in the Skagit Delta during their migration to and from their Arctic breeding grounds. Traditionally, farmers have drained the wetlands to grow their crops, depleting the feeding grounds.
For the last three years, a prgoram called "Farming for Wildlife" paid farmers to intentionally flood their fields for a season to provide a rich habitat for birds and other wildlife and kill pathogens in the soil. Third generation farmer Dave Hedlin called it a "win win" experience.