Sales increase 22 percent to $528 Million; Co-op estimates synthetic nitrogen and hormones avoided and farmer pay premiums realized over past 20 years
Hundreds of Organic Valley farmer-owners nationwide are converging in Wisconsin this week for their annual meeting, which will celebrate their 2008 achievements and mark the release of the cooperative's calculations illustrating total synthetic chemicals and performance enhancing drugs its farmer-owners have kept off the land and away from animals over the last 20 years.
At its annual meeting in La Crosse, Wis., which begins today, Organic Valley, the nation's largest cooperative of organic family farmers and one of the nation's leading organic brands, is reporting record sales of $528 million in 2008, a 22 percent increase over 2007.
The cooperative, with 1,332 farmers in 32 states and one Canadian province, expects 2009 sales to reach $549 million, a 4 percent increase. In 2007, sales increased 29 percent over 2006 to $432.5 million. Over the past five years, Organic Valley's sales have grown nearly 153 percent. (Full revenue figures at the conclusion of this release.)
"In light of the difficult economic environment and a softening in consumer spending, our farmers are very happy to once again experience double-digit sales growth in 2008 and to forecast continued growth for 2009," said George Siemon, one of the founding farmers and chief executive officer of Organic Valley.
"Economic crises are not new to family farmers," he continued. "Our mission to save family farms and strengthen rural communities was born in the 1980s when farmers faced yet another economic crisis.
"We learned then that good things can come from hard times when we work cooperatively. Through organic agriculture, we have been able to link our mission and our values with the citizens who want the kind of food we want to grow.
"We also realize the true measure of a successful business is not only what it earns, but also what it returns," Siemon concluded. "Organic farming is agriculture in harmony with nature, and we are pleased to have a new tool in place that enables us to measure the positive impact of our farming practices over the past 20 years as well as moving forward."
Calculator Estimates Avoided Impacts and Economic Benefits
To determine total synthetic chemicals and performance enhancing drugs its organic farming practices have avoided, Organic Valley compared its member farm data from the past 20 years to USDA estimates of synthetic chemical and performance enhancing drug usage on U.S. conventional farms during the same period.
Through these calculations, Organic Valley estimates the cooperative avoided:
- 58 million pounds of synthetic nitrogen
- 605,747 doses of performance enhancing drugs administered to animals, including 271,948 doses of rBGH and 338,798 doses of antimicrobial
In addition, the calculator compares the pay Organic Valley member-farmers received to that of conventional farmers over the past 20 years.
According to estimates, Organic Valley farmer pay totaled $816.2 million. According to USDA data, their conventional farm counterparts earned $590.3 million during the same period which is approximately $225 million or 38.3% less.
The cooperative will release more detailed information this month on avoided inputs and producer pay premiums on a state-by-state basis.
The Year Ahead
Although the consumer spending is down in many areas, Organic Valley remains strong, Siemon noted. Organic dairy remains a high priority for organic consumers.
"Many consider the purchase of organic food vital to their family's health," he explained. "We already know this will be a very tough year. But, as shoppers carefully scrutinize how they spend their food dollars, organic products remain on their list of items worth supporting. Consumers continue to choose organic as a way to not only support the health of their own family, but also to support the health of the earth and future generations."
Celebrating 20th Anniversary – Organic Valley welcomed its farmers, customers, partners and fans to join the co-op's 20th anniversary celebrations hosted nationwide throughout 2008, including their birthday party last October at Natural Product Expo East and the Kickapoo Country Fair in July.
Cooperative Giving – In 2008, the cooperative donated $2.2 million in financial grants and product to 586 organizations in communities nationwide.
1000th Dairy Farmer Joins Co-op – Organic Valley added its 1,000th dairy farmer member: W.R. Sherburne and Sons dairy in Dexter, Maine. This dairy joined 18 other Organic Valley dairies in Maine and more than 150 dairies in New England.
New Cheese, Butter – Organic Valley proudly introduced Pasture Butter, a sweet, lightly salted, luscious cultured butter, packed with more nutrients than other butters. This special butter is available only May through September, when the sun shines its warmest, pasture plants grow the strongest, and cows graze the longest. Whipped butter also joined Organic Valley's award-winning product line, presented in convenient and recyclable 8 oz. tubs. Finally, from certified organic cows pastured in the fertile, verdant valleys of Vermont, Organic Valley also began offering organic Vermont Cheddar Cheese, a premium cheese in celebration of this region's distinct flavor.
Preferred Stock Sales – While many were getting out of the national stock markets in 2008, a good number were investing in Organic Valley stock. The cooperative sold more than $9 million in Class E preferred stock last year, almost double the amount in previous years.
Fifth-Annual Kickapoo Country Fair – Organic Valley hosted the fifth-annual Kickapoo Country Fair on Saturday and Sunday, July 26-27 on the grounds of its headquarters in La Farge, Wis., set in the ancient and beautiful hills of the Kickapoo River Valley. The Midwest's largest rural heritage, food and farming festival featured farm tours, sustainability workshops, organic cooking, and 20th anniversary special events and guests. www.kickapoocountryfair.org
Gen-O Farmer Awards – At the Kickapoo Country Fair, Organic Valley also celebrated the next generation of farmers with its inaugural Generation Organic Recognition Awards, honoring young farmers in the cooperative who have demonstrated their commitment to organic farming and preserving the family farm and rural communities. The winners, by region, were Pete and Kelly Mahaffy of Coos Bay, Ore. (West), Clinton Welsh of Lansing, Iowa (Central), and Ethan Richardson of Sugar Grove, Va. (East).
Earth Dinners Nationwide – Earth Dinners took root nationwide in 2008, hosted and sponsored by Organic Valley. Originally created by Organic Valley to give Earth Day its own holiday meal, the dinners have become a fun food tradition happening on farms, in restaurants and in homes across the United Sates from Earth Day to harvest time. Dinners revolve around local, sustainable and organic cuisine and meaningful discussion about our connection to food, farming and each other. www.earthdinner.org
Organic Grower Pool Created – In an unprecedented effort to provide market stability to organic crop growers and affordable organic feed to livestock producers, Organic Valley opened its membership to organic crop growers with the introduction of its Grower Pool, which now has 23 members. Growers who are part of the pool benefit from a guaranteed floor price for their feed crops on a long-term contract basis and are able to enroll all or portions of their crop acreage in the pool.
Transparency – In an effort to provide its farmer-owners, employees, distribution partners, retailers and customers as much insight as possible into the cooperative, Organic Valley jumpstarted a "Transparency" initiative supported by a transparency section on its Web site (www.organicvalley.coop/our-story/transparency) sharing its internal policies and procedures and goals for continual improvement.
On-farm Sustainability – In 2008, the cooperative launched its Farmer Renewables and Energy Program (FREP) and its sustainable biodiesel initiative. Both programs provide farmer-owners with assistance in incorporating renewable energy options on their farms, such as sustainable biodiesel, solar and wind. Also last year, Organic Valley helped their farmer-owners located in various regions receive more than $120,000 in renewable energy grants.
Organic Valley 2008 Sales Figures and Facts
- Number of U.S. farmers: 2.08 million, as of 2008.
- Number of U.S. organic farmers: 18,211 organic farms as of the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture.
- Percentage of U.S. organic farmers in Organic Valley cooperative: Approximately 7 percent.
- Number of Organic Valley Farmers: 1,341 as of December 2008.
- Organic Valley farmers by region: California: 18; Pacific Northwest (WA, OR, ID): 70; Rocky Mountains (CO, UT, NM): 5; Central (IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MN, ND, NE, SD, TX, WI): 781; Great Lakes (OH, MI): 100; Southeast (FL, KY, LA, MS, NC, TN, VA): 28; Northeast (NY, PA, MD): 183; New England (MA, ME, NH, VT): 155.
- Organic Valley farmers by type, or "pool": Some farmers produce for more than one pool. Dairy: 1,037; Egg: 81; Produce: 144; Beef: 189; Pork: 27; Poultry: 3; Growers: 23; Juice: one cooperative made up of 14 members; Soy: one cooperative made up of 12 members.
- Organic Valley new farmers by type, or "pool": Dairy: 146; Egg: 7; Produce: 24; Beef: 10; Pork: 1; Growers: 14.
- Average Age of U.S. farmers: 57.1, based on 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture
- Average Age of Organic Valley farmers: In 2008, 49. In addition, 14.26 percent are under 30; 20.9 percent are under 40; and 38.58 percent are under 50.
- Organic Valley Average Farmer Pay Price per Hundredweight: 2008: $28.05 national average.
- Conventional Average Farmer Pay Price per Hundredweight: 2008: $18.54.
- Organic Valley Sales: $527 million in 2008, compared to $432.5 million in 2007. Organic Valley currently projects $549 million in 2009 sales.
Organic Valley Family of Farms: Independent and Farmer-Owned
Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,332 farmers in 32 states and one Canadian province, and achieved $527 million in 2008 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. The same farmers who produce for Organic Valley also produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic Prairie Family of Farms 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, www.twitter.com/organicvalley and Facebook, www.facebook.com/pages/Organic-Valley/20674850824.