A new coalition is trying to throw sand in the gears of industrial agriculture’s chemical treadmill. And this one just may have what it takes to slow it down. I’m referring to the fight over USDA approval for Dow AgroScience’s new genetically modified corn seeds (brand name “Enlist”), which are resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D.
So it’s interesting to see this new coalition’s opposition to 2,4-D getting so much traction so quickly. Perhaps it’s because the group — dubbed Save Our Crops — isn’t made up of environmentalists and sustainable agriculture types, but rather Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic conventional farmers and large food processors (and Organic Valley, the organic co-operative organization which is both a producer and a processor).
Organic Valley, the co-op that brought sustainable farming to the dairy industry, has adopted the latest twist in solar technology: windows with embedded with solar cells that generate electricity and save energy by boosting the benefits of daylighting.
Twenty windows at Organic Valley's headquarters in La Farge, Wisc., feature the unique product Pythagoras Solar of San Mateo, Calif., calls photovoltaic glass units.
George Siemon: Organic Valley
This dairy farmer’s intention in starting a cooperative with a few neighbors in Wisconsin’s Kickapoo Valley was not to generate $700 million revenue (in 2011), but that’s exactly what he did. Still at the helm today—he calls himself the CEIEIO in homage to Old MacDonald—Siemon says one of his favorite axioms is: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
"It's like a catch 22 thing, you feed less grain, but then when you feed less grain you make less milk, so you make less money," said Brunner.
Brunner's bottom line is about to get a boost.
The company Brunner produces for, Organic Valley, plans to start paying farmers more for their milk beginning in March.
It's been a tough few months for dairy, with Norway's butter shortage and now an ominous cloud looming over 2012 for organic milk drinkers. Consumers across the country can probably expect to see retail prices increase by as much as 10 percent this month.
So what's behind the squeeze on organic milk? ...organic grain and hay for animals — are now dramatically more expensive for farmers, but farmers aren't getting paid more for the milk. As a result, cows are getting less food and producing less milk. (As with lots of other troubles in agriculture these days, corn for biofuel has something to do with it.)
There is a shortage of organic milk across the country, and it has become so bad in areas like the Southeast that Publix stores from Florida to Tennessee have put up signs in dairy cases anticipating the shopper’s frustrated refrain: “Where’s my organic milk?”
In terms of taste, OV’s eggnog is the best on the market. But purchasing OV products also helps local farmers earn a fair wage for their dairy. And now, along with Stonyfield, OV is helping to ensure access to organic food for all through their Celebrate With Organic campaign. You can also enter to win a year’s worth of Organic Valley and Stonyfield products. For every entry, 20 cents will be donated to Wholesome Wave, which improves accessibility of locally grown fruits and veggies. (Around $5 per quart, grocery stores nationwide)
Knowing your farmer is about understanding his or her practices, motivations, challenges and ideas, but it's also about transparency. Transparency in agriculture means better practices, and better practices results in better food. I truly believe that if all Americans were able to meet their farmers, we would have a much healthier population and society.
I am fortunate enough to have met many of the lovely farmers who provide the organic meats, dairy, and produce for my restaurant, GustOrganics. And a few weeks ago, I got an invitation from Organic Valley to meet organic dairy farmers Susan, Aaron, and David Hardy on their farm in Mohawk, NY.
I completely understand that most people don't have the chance to personally meet their farmers and visit their farms; therefore, I decided to ask the Hardy family some questions and share their answers here with you.
For many years Full Circle Farm’s milk had been sold to make cheese; a small amount went to the Wisconsin Dairy Grazers Co-op, and the rest was sold to a small employee-owned cheese factory about 60 miles away. Rick and his family chose this factory because it was employee owned and operated under principles they believed in. Both employee-owned and co-operative businesses are built on democratic values and personal responsibility.
Then in 2003, to take advantage of better prices and better marketing services, he moved the family milk output to CROPP Cooperative, which sells dairy products under the Organic Valley brand. His milk now is sold as fluid milk rather than made into cheese.
It's a boost to a brand that has the word "organic" in its name, but this is about more than conveying a green image, Wright said.
"One of the main reasons we did is that it'll help manage and fix our costs," Wright said. "We're not just doing it because it's a nice thing to do. The higher the price of electricity goes up, the better we'll do at paying off our project quicker, and that'll be a profit center for us," he said.
"In addition to providing renewable energy to Cashton and Organic Valley, the wind turbines will serve as a 'living lab' for research and education for students at Western Technical College," Wright said.