Celebrate Launch of Organic Dairy in North Carolina
The first dairy farmers in the state of North Carolina to be certified organic recently received awards for their pioneering efforts from the nation's largest and oldest cooperative of organic farmers, Organic Valley Family of Farms/CROPP Cooperative.
Download hi-rez version. Photo by Regina Beidler.
Rick Parker and Chris Hoffner, the state's first and second (respectively) organic dairy farmers, were presented certificates of appreciation by George Siemon, CEO and a founding farmer of Organic Valley/CROPP, at an awards celebration dinner held at the Salisbury Holiday Inn on Feb 1st. On hand were members of the state's emerging organic community.
In presenting the awards, Siemon remarked, "Organic Valley is honored to be working with this group of innovative and courageous dairy farmers to spearhead the organic milk movement in North Carolina. Together with our partners in the region we are creating a new source of local organic milk for the market and a hopeful new trend for North Carolina dairy farmers."
Rick Parker and Chris Hoffner: North Carolina's Organic Pioneers
Rick Parker, of Mount Ulla in Rowan County, and his wife Dorcas, milk 108 organic cows on their 365 acre pasture-based dairy. It had previously been a conventional operation milking over 300 cows. Said Parker, "I really like the direction in which Organic Valley is taking us. It's important to me to be producing milk in a way consumers like and to be able to supply the local market. I support buying local and want to see my milk in local stores rather than producing for an anonymous commodity market." The Parkers live in the farm house built by Rick's great grandfather. Their six children represent the fifth generation of farmers on their farm. The Parkers began shipping to Organic Valley on December 14, 2006.
Chris Hoffner, also of Mount Ulla, and his wife Tara, milk 83 organic cows on their 600 acres in partnership with Chris' parents, Alan (Buddy) and Connie Hoffner. They have certified 226 acres as organic and the remainder is in transition to organic. Chris is a fourth generation dairy farmer and the third generation on this farm. Describing his motivation for going organic, Chris said, "My primary objective is to keep farming and to keep this land from being developed. Producing organic milk is the best way we found to do that. We're grateful to the consumers who are willing to pay us to farm organically so we can keep the tradition of the small, independent family farm alive here in North Carolina." The Hoffners began shipping to Organic Valley on January 31, 2006.
North Carolina's Organic Movement: a Strong Community Partnership
Lowell Rheinheimer, Organic Valley/CROPP's Regional Pool Coordinator, said "Organic Valley/CROPP is especially appreciative of the opportunity to work with Parker and Hoffner, and the dozen or so additional North Carolina dairy farmers currently in transition to organic, as well as a broad spectrum of members of the local agricultural, educational and business communities." Rheinheimer noted these included: North Carolina State University, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Piedmont Milk Sales, Milkco, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Orange County Economic Development Commission, North Carolina Crop Improvement Association, and Cooperative Extension.
Organic Valley's Eastern Division Sales Manager, George Konovalov said, "Southeast Regional consumers and retailers have been asking for locally-produced, pasture-based organic milk products. We are excited about the opportunity to begin offering organic milk from our newest family of farmers in the North Carolina market to our retailer partners and their customers. We look forward to continuing to work with our many agricultural, educational and business partners to ensure organic agriculture's steady growth in the region." He noted that the organic milk produced by the Parker and Hoffner farms, and other local Organic Valley farmer-owners, will ship to Milkco, a leading Asheville-based processing facility which is certified organic.
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative: Independent and Farmer-Owned
CROPP Cooperative (Cooperative Regions ofOrganic Producer Pools) markets under the Organic Valley Family of Farms label. Independent and farmer-owned, Organic Valley Family of Farms is America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 922 farmers in 27 states and one Canadian province, and achieved $355 million in 2006 sales. Focused on its founding mission of keeping small and mid-sized farmers farming, Organic Valley produces over 200 organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. The same farmers who produce Organic Valley also produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic Prairie label (www.organicprairie.com) and this was served at the dinner. For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop, www.organicprairie.com and the cooperative's farmers' website, www.farmers.coop.