Organic yogurt leader Stonyfield Farm (www.stonyfield.com) has launched the Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program to help fund innovative organic farming projects that can make a strong environmental impact or improve the long-term viability of organic farming.
"Stonyfield's 2011 goal is to build unprecedented levels of support for organic farming through an intensive yearlong 'organic stories' initiative that starts where organic begins, on the farm," said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield President & CE-Yo. "The Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program will help some of America's most innovative organic farmers bring to life projects they need help funding."
Judges from Stonyfield and Organic Valley (www.organicvalley.coop), the organic farming cooperative that produces milk for all Stonyfield products, selected six finalists from a pool of 72 farmer submissions representing 17 states from California to Maine. Farmers' submissions were judged on their projects' environmental impact, ability to sustain organic farming practices, and innovation. Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley have enjoyed a partnership based on shared mission and values for more than 15 years.
Beginning this month, consumers can learn about the six finalists on Stonyfield's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/stonyfieldfarm) where project details and videos created by the six farmers themselves will be featured. Consumers can then vote online for the grant amounts to be awarded to each farmer. One $10,000, two $7,500, and three $2,000 grants will be announced this March.
"Our farmer-owners are leaders in organic sustainable agriculture and represent the future of farming," said George Siemon, founding farmer and C-I-E-I-O of Organic Valley. "We're pleased they are participating in the Stonyfield Organic Farmer Grant-a-Wish program, and that their stories will be heard."
Finalists in the Stonyfield Organic Farmer Grant-a-Wish Program include the following farmer-owners of Organic Valley:
Jon and Juli Bansen milk 200 Jersey cows on their family farm in Oregon. They pasture the herd using an intensive, rotational grazing system. The Bansens would use grant funds to install a walk-through flytrap that vacuums flies off their cows. Flies cause stress in cows, reduce their production and lower their milk quality. Cows not under fly stress are on pasture longer each day, have higher quality milk, spread nutrients on the land more evenly, and produce more milk. They would purchase a special fly vacuum developed by a North Carolina State University entomologist. The machine would provide relief to their own cows and help build demand for the device. In turn this could lower its cost and increase its availability to farmers. The Bansens have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since June 2000.
Brent and Regina Beidler and their daughter Erin milk 35 cows and farm 150 acres in central Vermont. They practice grazing-based organic dairy farming and participate in local grassroots efforts, such as farm tours and organic-foods events. They're one of the few farmers growing commercial quantities of grain in Vermont. They grow it to increase their self-sufficiency as a farm. By providing straw for bedding the barn and grains for feeding the cows, it helps minimize the amount of inputs they need to purchase, provides additional diversification and income, helps them provide food directly to their neighbors and increase the food types available locally. Since their current equipment is antiquated, they would use grant funds to purchase better seed cleaning equipment and this would help improve the quality of their seeds and flour. The Beidlers have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since March 2000.
Peter and Kelly Mahaffy graze 120 Jerseys on 200 acres of pasture in Oregon. Local seafood processors are their primary source of fertilizer, but storing and processing the waste can cause significant odor problems. Their wish is to use the grant to build a covered compost shed that would eliminate odor issues and allow them to keep using rich seafood waste as fertilizer. They would put in a nutrient recycling system that would create biological stability and reduce nutrient loss to the atmosphere, eliminate potential leaching during the rainy season, reduce runoff into nearby waterways, and reduce odor. It would also produce nutrient dense organic compost ready to be used on their fields and shared with family, friends and neighbors. The Mahaffys have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since 2003.
Dana and Carol Shirk and their five children run a dairy farm in Michigan. Going organic in 2007 increased their financial stability and gave the family a new philosophy and lifestyle. They would use grant funds to create an aquifer-fed farm pond to support pasture irrigation and provide drinking water for their livestock. The pond would increase the number of days cows could graze on pasture, decrease energy usage via a wind-powered pump that would move water from the pond to the drinking water storage tank, provide more grass per acre for the cows, and increase soil fertility. The pond would also support wildlife by increasing nesting habitats and food sources, and could be used to inform other farmers about the benefits of sustainable practices and pasture irrigation. The Shirks have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since 2007.
Jerry and Dotty Snyder steward their 400 acre grass-based 50-cow dairy in western New York in an environmentally, economically, and culturally sustainable way. Along with their eight children, they also cultivate an organic apple orchard and maintain sugar maple trees. Their wish is to use the grant to build a one-acre pond. The water supply would be used by a hydro-electric generator that would power their dairy, two-story farm house, farm shop and freezers for their on-farm store. In addition it would create a gravity fed water supply for six pastures and help to promote drainage, increasing the amount of time cows can be on pasture each year. It would also supply water for the dairy herd and improve wildlife habitat. The Snyders have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since 2002.
George and Cherry Teague and their son Taylor, operate an 800-acre organic dairy in North Carolina. Right now they are the only source of organic feed in their entire state. Their wish is to use the grant to build a new, energy efficient feed mill that could process organic grains for other organic dairy farmers in the southeast, as well as livestock growers, and small farmers looking for local, organic feed. Their current mill is slow and inefficient and runs partly by hand. A new electric mill would increase energy efficiency by 93.9%, help keep the next generation of Teagues on the farm, increase opportunities for organic feed grain production in North Carolina, offer mixes in quantities suitable to many farm sizes, and support the sale of additional organic livestock. The Teagues have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since June 2007.
"The Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program was a true partnership between Organic Valley and Stonyfield," said Nancy Hirshberg, Vice President of Natural Resources for Stonyfield Farm. "All of us share an unwavering commitment to the survival and growth of organic farming. This grant program will help foster new approaches to organic farming that will benefit not just the individual farmers but the industry as a whole."
Find out more about the Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program by visiting Stonyfield on the web at www.facebook.com/stonyfieldfarm. For more information about Stonyfield Farm visit www.stonyfield.com. For information about Organic Valley and its farmer owners visit www.organicvalley.coop.