Travis Forgues is a young Organic Valley farmer who spends a lot of his time talking to other Vermont farmers about the benefits of going organic. Brendan liked what he heard. He realized that this idea of working with the land and the animals, of securing a healthy future for the cows and his beloved valley, wasn't really that new, after all, but a confirmation of the old ways that had sustained the family farm in the years before agriculture's chemical makeover.
As he looked around his farm, Brendan realized that going organic wasn't going to mean huge changes. "We always had pastures anyway, so it wasn't a huge leap." He hadn't ever been heavily dependent on chemicals. Today, he milks 100 cows and raises about 70 calves, rotating his stock on pastures throughout his 400 acres. The first crop harvested each year is from the maple trees. His dad and family tap 1,500 trees and boil the sap using traditional wood-fired methods.
He also grows corn, as much for an object lesson for his neighbors as anything: "I grow it without their fertilizers and herbicides just to show them they're wasting their time and money," he says. "They only grow it that way because it's the only way they know how."
Brendan's healthy cows and his generous hay and corn yields point to a different way, one that works with nature. "When you interact with nature," he says, "you find you're part of the whole system, you're one of the spokes, and everything moves well together."