Travis enjoyed being involved with the “protect” video.

“It’s definitely not like farming,” he said. “It was also fun to watch other people with the same eco-friendly mission. We all got so excited when we saw any sign of wildlife.”

Changing Opinions About Ag

Travis believes the video has a great impact on the public’s opinion of agriculture. “When people see our farm, they realize how much organic farming is actually working with nature. We’re not destroying the earth, but we’re farming together with Mother Nature,” he said.

At an elevation of 2,000 feet, the Pearson dairy farm draws wildlife from higher elevations of the mountain, as well as from two nearby wildlife preserves — Trout Lake Natural Area Preserve and Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge. During the winter, elk herds from the nearby preserves graze on remaining grasses in the cow pastures. Canada geese also spend winters in the preserves.

Additional wildlife on the Pearson farm includes yellow-bellied marmot, a new species for the film crew. There are also bears, cougars, black-tailed deer, dragonflies and butterflies.

Trout Creek runs through the farm, creating a habitat for numerous water critters, including beavers, otters, raccoons and weasels.

Twelve members of the McMahan family pose by trees.

The McMahan family, Washington

Graceful Killdeer on the McMahan Farm

The McMahan farm in Randle, Washington, is only a few hours west of Trout Lake as the crow flies. However, the film crew opted for the highway instead of navigating the rough, gravel road that links the two small towns.

The farm was chosen as a site for the video based on photos taken by Organic Valley staff photographers in 2011. With majestic views of Mount Adams, the farm has not changed much.

Joel McMahan is a fifth-generation dairy farmer. McMahan spent time with the film crew hiking around all three of his family’s farms, one dating back to 1886. The crew took sunset footage and used a drone to capture the pasture with Mount Adams in the background.

“The filming was a blast,” he said. “We moved fences around and rearranged cows to get some great nature shots showing the killdeer on the pasture.”

Killdeer get their name from their shrill, wailing call. Eighteenth-century naturalists noticed how noisy killdeer are, giving them names such as the chattering plover and the noisy plover.

“Killdeer build their nests in a small hole beneath the pasture and co-exist with the cows,” McMahan said. “Their habitat is the pasture and the hay fields, and they line their nests with weeds.

“It’s important to show people all the plants and animals living on our farm because there is always a disconnect between how people view agriculture and conservation. Growing up in a small logging community, I saw that we all want the same thing. We all want to operate with Mother Nature.”

Sometimes, dairy gets a bad environmental wrap, Siemon said.

“It was important for us to show how our small organic family farms are actually a part of the solution,” he said. ”Every Organic Valley farm forgoes the use of toxic pesticides, safeguards grasslands that sequester carbon and provides valuable habitat to countless species.”

Mount Adams can be seen from the McMahan family farm in Washington.

Mount Adams can be seen from the McMahan family farm in Washington.

The family started shipping milk to Organic Valley in 2007 and saw the future of organic dairies as a route to a sustainable livelihood. Despite growing up in this historical dairy family, McMahan didn’t want to be a dairy farmer. He originally joined the Corps of Engineers to build roads and bridges and then worked as a heavy equipment mechanic for a local mill.

The family dairy pulled him back to the farm, where he now farms with his brother, Wade, and uncle, Jake. The were the first organic dairy west of the Mississippi to introduce a milking robot to the barn, Joel said, and the herd loves to be on its own milking schedule. "It gives us more flexibility to be out in the hay fields and not rush back to milk.”

Along with the graceful killdeer, the farm is home to bald eagles, elk, geese, garter snakes, bears and mountain lions. “We have three farms and three diverse ecosystems and weather conditions so there is always an ebb and flow of nature.”

Mom bird with her babies swim in a river at the McMahan family farm in Washington.

The McMahan farm in Washington.

Cool Critters on Our Farms

Now we would like to introduce you to some wildlife “stars” from our “protect” video. An Organic Valley farm is home to a wide diversity of plant and animal life. Science has shown that organic farms have 30% more diversity.

Siemon was surprised at "how much our farmers knew about every little bug and bird on their land. It was clear that they not only valued their presence, but they went out of their way to encourage their presence," he said.

North American Wood Turtles found on Ranck’s farm in Pennsylvania are rare and unique species found in the Northeast, from southern Nova Scotia to northern Virginia. Wood turtles are still abundant, but their habitat is shrinking, and collectors seek them out. They need safe, natural spaces to live away from public access — just like an Organic Valley dairy farm. Preserving organic farmland helps turtle species like the wood turtle thrive.

Earthworms are vital to soil health and plants growing in it because they transport nutrients and minerals from below to the surface via their waste. On an organic farm, earthworms are vital soil aerators and a bellwether of the pasture’s health. As earthworms burrow, they consume soil, extracting nutrients from decomposing organic matter like leaves and roots.

Eastern long-tailed salamander has a long body with a slender tail that continues the color and pattern that begins on the head. This salamander is yellow to bright red-orange and is marked with contrasting black spots. Long-tailed salamanders remain locally abundant, but populations have declined due to habitat loss from clear-cutting of forests and pollution of larval ponds. They enjoy eating insects in rocky and wooded areas commonly found on Organic Valley farms.

Fawns found on Ranck’s dairy farm have a lower mortality rate than those in the forests of north central Pennsylvania. More than 72% of fawns born in the agricultural areas of the state will survive into adulthood.

Monarch butterflies depend on the milkweed plant as the site to lay their eggs. Organic pastureland offers a beneficial habitat for milkweed to thrive and monarchs to survive. The most amazing thing about monarch butterflies is their migration pattern each year. Every fall, as cold weather approaches, millions of monarchs leave the U.S. and fly south, returning to the same forests each year.

A fawn hides in the grass at an organic farm in Pennsylvania.

A fawn hides in the grass at an organic farm in Pennsylvania.

Protecting Our Food for Future Generations

Safeguarding the sources of our food is not merely a matter of ecological responsibility; it is necessary for the health of our planet and well-being of future generations. At Organic Valley, we believe it is important to support sustainable farming practices that benefit all animals, plants and people.

The farms in the video are truly Organic Valley farms.

“We would never show any farm in our ads that wasn’t our own for moral reasons and also quite frankly, because we believe we have the most beautiful small organic family farms in the country,” Siemon said.

We are all connected, from the tiny earthworm burrowing beneath the pasture to the chimney swifts that help with flies and mosquitoes.

We all have a big role in protecting organic farms and the families that have created these natural environments year after year.

Ah, nature.

______________________________________________________________________

Lisa Hill is a seasoned public relations professional based in Portland, Oregon, and serves as the Pacific Northwest public relations contractor for Organic Valley. With a passion for strategic communication, she specializes in crafting compelling narratives and building strong media relationships. Her expertise spans various industries including sustainable food systems, farm-to-table restaurants and natural grocery.

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