That happiness-inducing carnival winter squash you see in your store with the Organic Valley sticker on it was probably grown on small family farms in the Driftless Area of Southwest Wisconsin.
Eighty percent of the members of Organic Valley’s Produce Pool are Amish farmers who have been growing their community in the Driftless since the late 1970s. They moved here from all over the country for the land and so they could farm as families and make a living. Some of these farmers were at the very first CROPP Cooperative meeting in 1987, which had been convened by Organic Valley CEO George Siemon, who was a produce farmer way back then.
While all the Amish farms are diversified—meaning they raise chickens, goats, hogs and other crops—selling their vegetable crop to Organic Valley for a fair pay price has been a great source of stability for this community of farm families.
Amish farms are small, devoting anywhere from two to four acres to veggies. The day’s work is divvied up over the family breakfast. No matter the season, daily chores always include animal care and feeding, milking cows and collecting eggs. There is always water to be drawn, fires to be tended and other general chores to see to, along with whatever seasonal work awaits.
Heavier chores are turfed to the toffee-colored Belgian draft horses that plough and harvest crops and haul wood, produce, hay and lumber. Off-farm travel, which often includes meetings at the Organic Valley headquarters nearby, is accomplished via buggies pulled by horses whose long legs and distinctive gait are compliments of their Standardbred roots. The Standardbreds are often crossed with Morgans for strength, durability and temperament.
Growing produce for the cooperatively-owned Organic Valley is ideal for farmers like our Amish producers, whose culture and values do not encourage self-promotion, instead emphasizing family, the good of the community, and—what Organic Valley is all about—cooperation.