Three Young Farmer-Owners Receive Gen-O Awards
Underscoring its commitment to fostering the next generation of organic farmers, Organic Valley Family of Farms, the nationís largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nationís leading organic brands, recently recognized three of its young farmer-owners, with Generation Organic (Gen-O) awards.
The Gen-O Awards were created in 2008 to recognize individual 18-35 year old Organic Valley farmers who have demonstrated commitment to organic farming and preserving the family farm and rural community through leadership, stewardship and innovation. One winner from the western, central and eastern regions was selected and awarded an all-expense paid trip to the Kickapoo Country Fair, an annual event celebrating rural heritage and the future of farming in La Farge, Wis. The winners also had a chance to meet with Organic Valley leadership and were awarded a $500 donation to a non-profit or community organization of their choice in their name.
Recognized during a special presentation on July 26 at the Kickapoo Country Fair, the three winners were:
- Casey Knapp of Preble, New York (East)
- Mitch Lucero of Richfield, Idaho (West)
- Matt Fendry of Lanesboro, Minnesota (Central)
"As we look to the future of farming, we feel it is vitally important to acknowledge the farmers of tomorrow who will ensure that delicious, local and sustainable organic food choices exist for generations to come," said George Siemon, one of the founding farmers and chief executive officer for Organic Valley. "Our three young Gen-O award winners represent hope for building an environmentally and economically sustainable food system, and through their examples, show organic farming as a viable and rewarding profession."
Casey Knapp, Preble, N.Y. (East):
Casey, 20, has grown up farming organically on his family's farm, Cobblestone Valley Farm, in Preble, NY, which transitioned to organic when he was 11 years old. Casey is involved with nearly every aspect of the farm, from milking, planting and harvesting, to helping with the farm's direct-marketing ventures. Because organic farming has been such an integral aspect of Casey's upbringing, he is eager to share his enthusiasm by talking with friends and family, making formal presentations to groups, or representing Organic Valley as a farmer ambassador. In addition, as president of the Whole Earth Club at Onondaga Community College, Casey is working to implement a number of environmentally sustainable programs, such as composting and eliminating plastic water bottles. In May 2009, Casey was invited to participate in the 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, an intense global meeting bringing together more than 1,000 representatives from government, civil society, and the UN system to debate and devise green solutions to the world food crisis. Casey was the only farmer who participated in the youth caucus, joining young leaders from around the world who are shaping tomorrow's policy today.
Matt Fendry, Lanesboro, Minn. (Central):
Matt, 27, has been an organic dairy farmer at Hidden Valley Jerseys Farm in Lanesboro, Minn., since 2002. Prior to that, he also produced organic vegetables for five years. Matt has incorporated several sustainable practices on his farm, including rotational grazing and maximizing forage and sod to prevent erosion and build soil. In addition, Matt has also been active in the Organic Valley co-op, including participating in the Farmer Ambassador Program and serving on the Dairy Executive Committee (DEC) as one of the Minnesota representatives. Finally, Matt is also committed to sharing his experience and knowledge with other farmers in his community, especially young farmers who are just getting started.
Mitch Lucero, Richfield, Idaho (West):
Mitch, 26, is a fourth generation farmer at Morning Star Organic Farm, in Richfield, Idaho, which was homesteaded by his grandfather in 1907. The family dairy farm officially transitioned to organic in 2006, though much of what they were doing was already the organic way. Mitch and his wife, Acee, recently inherited a 120-acre farm where they are raising organic turkeys and plan to grow hay and pasture for the family dairy. They also are exploring on-farm sustainability practices, including wind power and water conservation. Further, Mitch's commitment to organic farming goes beyond the farm. He advocates for organic and sustainability in his role serving on various local committees, as an Idaho Dairy Industry Ambassador and on the board of Leadership Idaho Agriculture.
Organic Valley Family of Farms: Independent and Farmer-Owned
Organic Valley is Americaís largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nationís 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 cooperativeís farmer website, www.farmers.coop. Organic Valley is also on Twitter, www.twitter.com/organicvalley and Facebook, www.facebook.com/pages/Organic-Valley/20674850824.