John Mattos says he talked more than he worked as a young kid growing up on his dad's farm. Nowadays, John works more than he talks, tending to his 450 cows on the rolling hills of his Diamond M Dairy in Sonoma County, California.
John was born and raised on his family's farm, where his grandparents raised and grazed cows starting in 1944. He began working for his Dad fresh out of high school and broke out on his own at the age of 24. Today, his wife Joni and son Nick help him run the operation.
In 2001, when a neighboring farmer earned organic certification, John began asking questions. He wanted to know what it took to become organic—the challenges, the rewards, the costs. His farming methods weren't that far removed from organic farms, but he says it took him a bit to gather up his confidence. When he had a number of young animals in his herd, he figured the timing was right to make the official transition to organic.
The Mattos' land was certifiable right away. Most of the land was pasture, so the soil hadn't even been plowed. Weeds had been successfully managed by mowing or wind-rowing—no pesticides—and they had always used (organic-appropriate) cow manure for fertilizer.