Organic Valley, America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands, today announced the Generation Organic™ 2011 “Who’s Your Farmer?” Tour, which will kick off at Organic Valley headquarters in La Farge, Wis. on September 26 and wind its way through the Pacific Northwest, wrapping up at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Ca. on October 17.
Organic Valley’s Generation Organic is a group of young farmers aged 18 to 35 representing a new generation of sustainable agriculture leaders who believe in the power of Organic to change the world. “Gen-O” farmers will make the three-week tour on a bus fueled by sustainably produced biofuels. Along the way they will urge people to own their food and arm them with knowledge about how personal food choices affect the health of our bodies and our planet—and drive their future.
This year’s crew includes young organic farmers hailing from the West Coast, from towns such as Coos Bay and Scio, Oregon, and Modesto, California. Other “Gen-O” farmers on the tour are from Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. While many of these young farmers were born into organic farming —weeding gardens and tending calves as part of their daily chores—today, they are helping run their family’s organic farms by choice, from creating intensive rotational grazing systems, to applying best practices of sustainability, to overseeing virtually all aspects of production. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, America has lost approximately 4.5 million farms since 1935, and most of the 2.1 million farms that remain are operated by farmers with an average age of 57. In contrast, the average age of Organic Valley farmers is 44.
“Generation Organic gives these young organic farmers an opportunity to share with other youth their vision for a better world,” said George Siemon, C-E-I-E-I-O and a founding farmer of Organic Valley. “These young people are the future of sustainable agriculture—their hard work and enthusiasm is inspirational to us all.”
“It has always been important to me to leave this planet a better place than we found it,” says Kelly Mahaffy, a young Organic Valley farmer on the Generation Organic 2011 “Who’s Your Farmer?” Tour. “As the mother of three young girls, that feeling has only deepened. I love knowing there are other young farmers out there struggling to farm sustainably, grow a business and raise a family. Through Generation Organic, we connect and share stories amongst ourselves, and with people everywhere who want to know where their food comes from.” In 2003, Mahaffy and her husband Pete started River Bend Jerseys, an organic dairy farm stretching more than two miles along the river in Coos Bay, Oregon. Today, with 120 Jersey cows on a 200-acre intensive grazing system, she raises both cows and kids, and grows a massive garden to preserve vegetables for the winter.
The Generation Organic 2011 “Who’s Your Farmer?” Tour will stop at select college campuses, farmers markets, grocery stores and food coops, including key stops at Montana State University, Portland Farmers Market, The Evergreen State College, University of Portland, Oregon Culinary Institute, Oregon State University, University of California-Chico, University of California-Davis, the 2011 Bioneers Conference, and Stanford University.
For the past 16 years, Organic Valley has had a vital presence in the Pacific Northwest, as a steadfast contributor to rural and urban communities from Ashland, Oregon to Lynden, Washington and east to Idaho. Organic Valley currently has 51 farmer-owners and six processing plants in the Pacific Northwest, ensuring fewer miles from farm to table.
Last October, the first Generation Organic 2010 “Who’s Your Farmer?” Tour took place in the Northeast, stopping at key colleges and ending in our nation’s capitol.
Organic Valley Family of Farms: 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 1,643 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, and achieved $619 million in 2010 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, yogurt, 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 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.