Organic farming is family affair for four brothers and two cousins
Organic Valley, the nation's oldest and largest organic farmers cooperative, welcomes its new organic dairy farmers from South Dakota—four brothers and their two cousins—from Milbank and neighboring town, Big Stone City, 10 miles from the Minnesota border.
The brothers, cousins and their families own and operate South Dakota's first certified-organic dairy farms. They began shipping milk to Organic Valley Monday, Nov. 20. The Fonder brothers' father, Dennis Fonder, played a pivotal role in helping his boys and their cousins transition their farms to certified organic. They are now among more than 900 farmer-members of Organic Valley.
"Organic Valley has given our family new hope that our farming tradition can be passed on to future generations of Fonders," said Rick Fonder. "We're proud to be organic farmers, and we are confident the opportunities for our family and others will grow as this movement continues to pick up steam and recognition as the most healthy practice for ourselves, our community, our animals and our environment."
Between the four farms, the Fonders care for 222 organic acres and milk 211 Jersey, Normandy and Holstein cows. Rick Fonder led the transition, eventually persuading his three brothers and two cousins to transition as well. After farming conventionally for more than 20 years, the Fonders decided to become certified organic. They all believe it is best for their land and animals, and it is helping them to finally make a decent living doing what they love.
"We're very proud to welcome the Fonder family into the cooperative," said George Siemon, Organic Valley's CEO and one of the cooperative's seven founding farmers. "It's especially exciting for us to see multiple family members switching to organic because they recognize it as a promising way to carry on their highly valued and deeply rooted way of life."
Milk from the Fonder family will be pooled with the Minnesota Sauk Centre regional milk for Organic Valley.
The Fonder brothers and their wives include: Rick and Helaine Fonder, Matt and Eileen Fonder, John and Sandra Fonder, and Bill and Janine Fonder, all of Milbank. The Fonder's brother's cousins, Paul and Steve Fonder, and Steve's wife, Maria, farm near Big Stone City.
"As we begin our organic farming journey, we're happy to now be part of an even larger family of farmers who really care about one other and our customers," Rick Fonder. "We're more confident than ever about our future in farming."
Organic Valley: Farmers on a Mission
Independent and farmer-owned, Organic Valley Family of Farms is America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents over 900 farmers in 27 states and is projecting $355 million in 2006 sales. Focused on its founding mission of keeping small and mid-sized farmers farming, Organic Valley produces over 200 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 Organic Valley also produce a full range of organic meat under the Organic Prairie label (www.organicprairie.com) For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop.