John and Meghan Palmer are proud farmer-owners of CROPP Cooperative, and prouder still to produce the quality organic milk that is sold under the Organic Valley brand. Together with their three children, they are a farm family who exemplify the cooperative’s mission.
There are many reasons why the Palmers choose to farm organically.
While both Meghan and John grew up on dairy farms and had good memories and positive experiences, John’s family also had a great deal of experience with cancer.
“By the time I was five, I had lost my mother and two grandparents to the disease,” John says. From then on, John’s life revolved around his father. He spent every moment he could with his dad, learning about farming and growing to love the lifestyle.
Although John was not raised on an organic farm, he was very leery of the chemicals they used.
“I remember my father not allowing me to be with him when he sprayed the crops. He stressed the importance of staying away from the sprayer and the corn planter with their poisonous contents that made him feel sick every year. Once I was old enough, I helped spray thistles every summer, even though it made me and my dad ill.”
Meghan’s father had transitioned their family farm to organic a few years before she met John, and that was how he learned firsthand that chemicals were not necessary to farm successfully. Once they were married but still in college, they began working toward having their own organic farm, and became farmer-owners of CROPP Cooperative – Organic Valley in July of 2006.
Today, Meghan, John and their three children live on and farm what used to be the home-farm of Meghan’s great-grandparents, but they have to rent the land from the current non-family owner. “Someday, we hope to be able to purchase it and put the farm back together,” John says.
The 300 acres the Palmers farm organically are home to the family as well as to about 100 mostly Holstein cows. They are able to grow all the feed necessary for their animals on the farm instead of having to buy feed elsewhere, which greatly reduces one of the biggest expenses farmers incur.
John loves farming and wants to provide the same lifestyle opportunities to his children as he had growing up.
“It is rewarding to see a crop or an animal thrive as a result of care and hard work,” John says. “The lessons we learned growing up on the farm are vital to living a grounded life."
John gives generously of his time to the cooperative he owns. He has served as alternate on the Dairy Executive Committee and as a member of the Standards Committee. He is a Farmer Ambassador for CROPP at many of the events the cooperative participates in across the country. At home, the Palmers are active in their community church and host tours on their farm for local schoolchildren. They have an “open door policy” for visitors and people looking for help and knowledge about organic agriculture.
“It’s fun to see the growing interest in the way we farm and what Organic Valley and other industry leaders are doing for the health and sustainability of our soils and family farms. Ultimately, what we do is good for consumers as well.
“We are able to farm independently because of Organic Valley and conscientious organic consumers. We do our best to be good stewards through grazing our animals, growing our own feed, using preventative – rather than corrective – measures against weeds and disease, and through the conservation of the resources we use every day, such as water, fuel, and electricity. We are proud members of Organic Valley and the organic community.”