Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers, and Rodale Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to pioneering organic farming through research and outreach, today announced they have joined together to help another dairy transition to organic: the Burkholder family farm in Kutztown, PA.
As part of the partnership, Rodale Institute provided the Burkholders with land and access to pastures. Meanwhile, Organic Valley welcomed the Burkholders into the Organic Valley cooperative as members and farmer-owners. Together, they have helped the Burkholders stay on the land and produce organic milk for the region. Their first truckload of certified organic milk was delivered on April 11, 2012.
“When we first got into dairy farming, I was frustrated by a pricing structure that did not take the farmer into account,” said James Burkholder. “Then I became aware of the steady pay price of organic. The major health improvements in our cows made us start thinking about our own health and the health of our growing family. Organic is not a fad; it’s here for the long term. Thanks to Rodale Institute and Organic Valley, we are able to participate in this important movement.”
James and Ida Burkholder grew up on farms in rural Pennsylvania and started their own farm five years ago with land purchased by Ida’s father that bordered the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm. In 2009, plummeting conventional milk prices and decreased profit were threatening their family farm. The Burkholders knew they needed to make a change and were interested in transitioning to organic. However, with 64 cows and only 44 acres they would never meet organic certification requirements. Unless they could get access to more land, the Burkholders would be excluded from accessing the organic marketplace and may have had to give up the farm altogether.
In 2011, the Burkholders started grazing their dairy herd right next door on Rodale Institute certified organic pastures with the goal of producing organic milk at the end of one year while they transition their pastureland. Rodale Institute, in turn, began specific research at the Burkholder’s Farm, studying the health of the cows, soil, and milk to see how organic management affects omega-3, omega-6 and conjugated linoleic acid levels in the dairy products. The first report will be released later this year announcing the early trends in the nutritional quality of the milk.
“Creating an organic economy means working together as a community,” says Coach Mark Smallwood, Rodale Institute Executive Director. “Our land benefits from the animals, the cows benefit from the organic pasture, and James and Ida benefit from Organic Valley’s strong cooperative. It feels good to be working with our neighbors on making better soil, healthier cows and a bigger organic world.”
“We’re pleased to work with Rodale to keep family farmers like James and Ida on the land and support them in their transition to organic,” said George Siemon, C-E-I-E-I-O and founding farmer of Organic Valley. “We have long enjoyed a shared mission with Rodale Institute to further organic agriculture. Our regional model supports local farmers and economies, and our ties in the farmer communities of Pennsylvania run deep. It is an honor to have folks like James and Ida join us.”
Today, Organic Valley has 475 total farmer-owners in the Northeast, including 164 in Pennsylvania, 53 of whom joined from the Lancaster County Organic Farmers Cooperative (LOFCO) in 2011. By producing, processing, bottling and distributing within the region, Organic Valley is able to reduce the miles between farm and table, supporting local farmers and the local economy along the way.
Organic Valley and Rodale Institute have partnered on key organic and sustainable agricultural initiatives nationwide. The two entities share the same goals of educating consumers on the benefits of organics, and do so by conducting farm tours on the Burkholder farm and at Rodale Institute. Organic Valley is also supporting all Rodale 2012 public events at the Institute, and the two organizations are partnering on a side-by-side soils experiment to more deeply understand the impacts of three organically approved soil amendment techniques, among other on-farm initiatives and aforementioned research being conducted on the Burkholder herd.
In August, the Burkholders will be looking to Organic Valley’s Facebook fans to help them officially name their farm. For more details, please visit https://www.facebook.com/OrganicValley
Organic Valley: Independent and Farmer-Owned
Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,766 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, and achieved $715 million in 2011 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of 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. With its regional model, milk is produced, bottled and distributed right in the region where it is farmed to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support our local economies. The same farmers who produce for Organic Valley also produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic Prairie label. For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop, www.organicprairie.coop and the cooperative’s farmer website, www.farmers.coop. Organic Valley is also on Twitter @OrganicValley and Facebook www.facebook.com/OrganicValley.