When Mark Martin got on the truck with Organic Valley 7 years ago, there were only 11 Ohio dairy farmers in organic production. Now there are 80.
The Martins were not always organic. After moving to Ohio from Pennsylvania in 1993, they intended to farm conventionally, just like the farm he was raised on. But, after suggestions from an older brother, and a bad experience with cow fatalities, he took a big step toward organic when he decided to graze his cows instead of keeping them confined in a barn eating only grain. He was ridiculed for it, but with Marian’s support, they persevered.
“I always had an interest in organic because my Mom used to subscribe to Organic Gardening. So when I started farming I wanted to do it with as few chemicals as possible.” Grazing was a perfect segue. “When we went organic the ridicule started all over again. People would talk, say it’s just a passing fad and that we would fail.” Once again, the Martins persevered, because, as Mark says, “for us, it’s the right way to farm.”
Mark has spent years bringing their 156 acres back to high quality pasture. Once they went organic, he was amazed at the improvement in the health of his 44 Dutch Belted cows. “I used to spend in the thousands every year on vet bills. Now I rarely spend anything on vet bills.” The Martins are excited about the prospect of their childrens’ futures in farming. “I feel that farming organically gives them a better shot at farming in the future. Our boys definitely dream of having their own dairy farms. That makes me happy because it was not the way I felt growing up.”