In 2000, Ron says he just woke up and thought he'd really like to go organic. They had already stopped using herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. "It just seemed like the right thing to do. Before WWII we didn't have herbicides and synthetic fertilizers, and farmers were doing a lot better than they are now."
But there was no market for organic milk in Maryland until the spring of 2005. Ron went to a meeting sponsored by a large organic dairy company who had come in looking for milk. He knew he wanted to sell his organic milk, but he didn't want to be involved with a big, impersonal corporation. He asked around and found out about Organic Valley. "So I called them up and asked if they needed milk from this area and they said yes, and I said 'I'd like to go with you because you're a cooperative, and farmer-owned and family oriented.'"
Ron's son Adam was only 4 when the Holters started making changes on their farm. Adam is 17 now and studying business in college. When he graduates he's coming back to the farm. A few months ago, Ron asked his son if he would have wanted to come back to the farm if they were still a confinement dairy. Adam said no. "Adam is really good with the cows, very cool and calm, much calmer than I was before we started grazing. The way you handle and deal with the animals is much more calm and relaxed in this way of farming because the animals are healthier and more relaxed." Watching the 118 Jerseys in Ron's pastures, one gets the sense that they couldn't agree more.
How did Ron's own dad feel about all the changes on the farm? "The first year he was very cool and let me have the reins. The next year, '96, he went on a pasture walk with me and someone asked him that question and he said, 'At first I thought we were going backwards, but it only took me one year to realize that Ron's going about things the right way. I wish we'd done this a long time ago.'"