Organic Valley Family of Farms, America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation's leading organic brands, announced today that four of its Vermont farmer-owners recently received local awards recognizing their commitment to quality, sustainability, and organic farming as a whole.
“Vermont has long been a strong organic dairy farming state and is home to our 124 Vermont farmer-owners,” said George Siemon, one of the founding farmers and chief executive officer of Organic Valley. “We’re very proud of the organic milk our Vermont farmers produce and congratulate them on their consistently high quality milk. These awards are exemplary of the meticulous care with which our Organic Valley farmer-owners operate in Vermont and across the country.”
“I don’t believe that it’s just one thing that makes a farm win an award,” said Andrew DeLa Bruere, an Organic Valley farmer-owner since 2003 and winner of the Vermont Farm Family of the Year award.
“The neatness of our farm, our previous milk quality and soil conservation awards all play a part. But perhaps more importantly, we’re involved in this community and committed to organic dairy farming. My wife and I started this farm from scratch, and together with our son, we run it today to the very best of our ability. We raised three kids on this farm and have three granddaughters who may become future farmers. We’re proud to serve on Organic Valley’s Dairy Executive Committee to discuss policies, prices and quality. It’s not one aspect of the farm; it’s the whole operation itself.”
The four Vermont award winners are:
The Boomhower family’s Bittersweet Valley Farm in Fairfield
2008 Lake Champlain Farm Award
The Lake Champlain Basin Program
The DeLa Bruere Family Farm in Derby
Vermont Farm Family of the Year 2008
Vermont Farm Bureau
The Choiniere Family Farm in Highgate Center
Vermont Sustainable Farm of the Year 2008
Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council
The Meyer family’s North Hardwick Dairy in Hardwick
2008 Highest Milk Quality Award, State of Vermont
Vermont Dairy Industry Association
Carolyn and grandson Damien Boomhower run their 265-acre organic dairy farm with 50 acres of meadow and 70 acres of rotationally-grazed pasture which provide feed for 60 mature Holsteins and young stock. Run off, erosion, and other river-related issues are ongoing challenges that the Boomhowers have successfully faced. The Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) has presented The Lake Champlain Farm Award to one farm family in Vermont, New York and Quebec since 2005. This is the first year that the award has been bestowed upon not only a small dairy, but an organic dairy. The LCBP seeks nominations for farmers who have taken considerable voluntary action to prevent pollution from entering Lake Champlain or its tributaries and have shown leadership within their community.
Andrew and Kathy DeLa Bruere began organic dairy farming in 2003 when they joined Organic Valley Family of Farms. They started with 36 cows and now have a total of 165, milking up to 80 percent of them. They raised three children on the farm, of whom their son Josh farms with them full-time. They also have three granddaughters who may become future farmers. The Vermont Farm Bureau (VtFB) awards one Vermont Farm Family of the Year Award to a deserving local family. The VtFB is a grassroots organization with policies and priorities set at the county level by individual farmer-members. The VtFB is the state's largest non-profit trade association of agricultural producers, comprising more than 4,000 member-families in all fourteen counties who have joined together to solve problems common to the agricultural community.
Today, Guy and Beth Choiniere, with their two children and Guy’s father Henry, own and operate their third-generation family farm, which has been certified organic since 2005. This exceptionally hilly farm currently operates on about 200 acres with 65 milkers. The Choinieres have executed several recent conservation projects, including planting more than 500 trees and building up a singular river crossover, to address issues with nearby Rock River, an impaired watershed. Each year one farm is selected by the Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council to acknowledge its commitment to environmental stewardship, innovative farming and/or marketing practices, economic viability, and a commitment to contributing to education and community. The Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council is a state entity that serves as a conduit for representatives of the agricultural community. The Council guides research, regulatory, education and outreach programs toward the development and widespread adoption of a more sustainable system of food and fiber production.
Nick and Taylor Meyer operate North Hardwick Dairy, a 300-acre farm with a closed herd of 67 milkers and 65 young stock. The Meyer family has won Vermont’s highest milk quality award for four years in a row, this year out of 15 nominees representing both conventional and organic milk producers. North Hardwick Dairy is the first organic dairy to have received the award in the state’s history. The award is given to dairy farmers who have documented, through laboratory analysis, farm inspections and sensory evaluation, the production of Vermont’s best quality milk. The nominees are judged on records provided by their milk handlers and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. The nominees also provide a milk sample that is judged on flavor.
Vermont is recognized nationally as a key dairy producer and the largest in New England, exporting up to 90 percent of its milk, according to the Vermont Dairy Industry.
In early March, Organic Valley launched its new organic Vermont cheddar cheese, a premium cheese in celebration of the region's distinct flavor. More than 60 Organic Valley family farmers are contributing to the production of the cheese, which is available in three varieties—Medium, Sharp and Extra-Sharp—in 1 lb. blocks at suggested retail prices of $11.49, $11.99 and $12.49 respectively. Vermont cheddar cheeses are available at select organic and natural food grocers.
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 $527.8 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.