Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand, celebrated next generation farmers by awarding three of its young farmer-owners with Generation Organic™ (Gen-O) Awards. Generation Organic represents Organic Valley’s farmers aged 16 to 35—the future faces of organic agriculture—who demonstrate a commitment to sustainable agriculture and believe in the power of organic to change the world. The Gen-O Awards were presented at the cooperative’s annual meeting award banquet on March 30th in La Crosse, Wis.
The Gen-O Awards began in 2008 to acknowledge these young individuals’ dedication to organic food and farming, the family farm and rural community through stewardship and innovation that fosters the development of the organic movement’s next generation of leaders.
“It’s inspirational to be part of Generation Organic and join other young farmers,” said Casey Knapp, a member of Generation Organic in upstate New York. “Our reasons and stories are diverse, but we all believe in the power of organic to change the world.”
Approximately 30 Generation Organic members from Vermont to Oregon attended the annual meeting to honor the winners and engage with hundreds of other farmer-owners to discuss the cooperative’s direction for 2012.
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 an Organic Valley farmer is 44. For more information on Generation Organic, visit www.organicvalley.coop/generationOrganic/.
Recognized during a banquet on March 30th in La Crosse, Wis., the three 2012 Gen-O Award winners are:
Adam Holter of Frederick County, Md. (East)
Laura Boere of Stanislaus County, Calif. (West)
Jared Luhman of Goodhue County, Minn. (Central)
Adam Holter, Frederick County, Maryland (East):
Adam, 21, of Holterholm Farms in Frederick County, Md., is a sixth-generation farmer on his family’s 207-acre farm. After studying business at Shepherd University, Adam and his fiancé returned to the farm, anticipating raising a seventh generation in the same house that Adam’s great grandfather lived in during the 1820s. Currently 100 percent grass-fed, the Holters look toward increasing their grass-fed beef and pastured pork production. Since experiencing the benefits of transitioning from conventional to organic first-hand, Adam believes strongly in small, organic, family farms working closely with community to ensure a sustainable food system. Adam participated in the Generation Organic “Who’s Your Farmer?” 2011 Tour through the Pacific Northwest and California.
Laura Boere, Stanislaus County, California (West):
Laura, 27, farms with her father and brother in Stanislaus County, Calif., on 500 acres of land known as John Boere Dairy, which transitioned to organic in 1999. Their dairy farm’s herd of Holstein, Ayrshire and cross-bred cows can graze nearly year-round due to the clay content in the soil, uniquely allowing green pastures throughout all four seasons in California. She is committed to following an organic farming career path on her family’s farm, and is hopeful about the future of organic farming in California. Laura participated in the Generation Organic “Who’s Your Farmer?” 2010 Tour in the Northeast and the 2011 Tour in the Pacific Northwest and California.
Jared Luhman, Goodhue County, Minnesota (Central):
Jared, 18, plans to one day take over his family’s farm, Jon Luhman Organic Crops. Starting in the fall of 2012, he will attend the University of Minnesota for a degree in agriculture education, while maintaining his leadership positions in Future Farmers of America. On weekends and summers, Jared will continue to work closely with his father and grandfather stewarding the land where they raise grass-fed, red Angus beef, as well as corn, beans, wheat, and hay for Organic Valley’s grower pool.
In 2010, Organic Valley launched the Generation Organic “Who’s Your Farmer?” Tour, spreading the message of “Own Your Food, Drive Your Future!” The inaugural tour took place in the Northeast with Gen-O farmers boarding a bus fueled by sustainably produced biofuels. The bus stopped at key colleges and universities and ended in our nation’s capitol. Along the way, the Gen-O farmers urged people to “own” their food choices and armed them with knowledge about how food choices affect the health of our bodies and our planet. In 2011, Gen-Os boarded the bus again, this time taking their organic food and farming message to the West Coast. The Generation Organic “Who’s Your Farmer?” 2012 Tour is currently being planned for fall and will take place in the Midwest.
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 1,687 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.