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.
After two years of wrangling in the courts, a federal court has ruled that Ohio's ban on the labeling of dairy products as hormone-free is unconstitutional. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is a major setback for corporations selling dairy products from cows treated with synthetic bovine hormones to an unwitting public.
It was the court's decision that Ohio's absolute ban on voluntary, hormone-free labeling violated the First Amendment rights of dairy processors and was "more extensive than necessary to serve the state's interest in preventing consumer deception."
The landmark case was brought to court by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). OTA and its members, including Horizon Organic®, Organic Valley®, and Stonyfield Farm®, filed the appeal in conjunction with the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).
Free milk and string cheese were enough to keep spirits high on Old Campus Friday.
Enterprising young farmers from the farmer-owned coop, Organic Valley, visited campus over the weekend as part of their East Coast Generation Organic tour in an effort to raise awareness about sustainable agriculture. Farmers on the tour advocated for specific policy changes to the national 2012 Farm Bill and tried to show students the career possibilities in farming. While no students interviewed said they planned to become farmers, students said they enjoyed learning about farming and eating cheese.
“People are hungry to know where their food comes from,” said Silas Hundt, a 22-year-old dairy farmer from Coon Valley, WI, who was one of Organic Valley’s representatives on the tour.
A group of young organic farmers stopped at Bennington College Tuesday to talk with students about the importance of understanding where the food they eat comes from and the benefits of eating organic.
The event, which included one-on-one discussions, games, information about organic farming and a presentation, was part of Organic Valley's Generation Organic 2010 "Who's Your Farmer?" tour that's hitting campuses across the Northeast on its way to the nation's capital.