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Eric Palmer stands in front of a meadow and trees in La Farge.


Thank You for Your Courage and Commitment

As Veterans Day approaches, we want to introduce one of our team members here at Organic Valley who has served his country. A tour in Afghanistan was a pivotal moment that made him stronger and reminded him of the importance of friends and family.

Eric Palmer started with the cooperative in April on the Facilities Team. Though he is relatively new, he’s no stranger to the collaborative spirit at Organic Valley nor La Farge, Wisconsin, which Organic Valley calls home.

Palmer grew up in Rockton, Wisconsin, about 5 miles up the road from Organic Valley headquarters. His grandfather and father served in the military. Eventually, so did his two brothers and four of his cousins.

“It was a family thing,” Palmer said. “Coming from a small town, it was kind of important to my dad for us to do something other than just stay here.”

After graduating from La Farge High School in 2007, Palmer worked in construction for a while. His dad pitched the military as a way for him to get different experience, get out of the area a bit and meet people.

So, Palmer enlisted in the Army. He entered service in 2010, starting with basic training at Fort Benning (now Fort Moore) in Georgia. His first tour of duty saw him traveling to South Korea. There, he was a Bradley driver. “It’s like a tank, but it carries troops,” Palmer said.

After a year, he came back to the U.S. On returning stateside, Palmer was stationed in Texas and pulled office duty for a couple months.

Serving Country Overseas

“And then we found out we were deploying to Afghanistan,” Palmer said.

He took on the role of a sergeant major’s driver, an intimidating job in tough circumstances and unfamiliar terrain. He went on to drive for numerous military personnel. He eventually was promoted to personal security detail where he again served several higher ups, including a general.

“Attention to detail was big,” Palmer said. “You have to pay attention to the little things, everything and everybody.”

Palmer saw combat during his time in Afghanistan.

When he returned home in 2013, he got off the plane and the moment he saw his partner, he asked her to marry him. Macey, an Organic Valley Safety Team member, said his mother slyly handed Eric a ring before the proposal.

The Palmer family poses for a photo in fall in Wisconsin.

The Palmer family of Wisconsin

“He came home from Korea and asked me out on a date,” she said. “Two weeks later he went to Afghanistan and was there for 10 months.”

The two have known each other for years (her mom used to babysit Eric) and Eric loved Macey’s son before “he fell in love with me,” she said.

Army Retirement After Afghanistan

Soon after he retired from the Army, but he thinks about his time in the military daily.

“I think overall it made me a better person and made me appreciate what I have,” Eric said. “It was an amazing opportunity to serve with America’s best.”

Transitioning back to civilian life takes a little adjusting, he said.

“It’s a state of mind,” Eric said. “I try to keep it only on the good things, but once in a while bad things come out and I try to just keep moving forward. Left foot, right foot.”

An American flag and Army patches hang by Eric Palmer's desk. Photos of his children are shown on his computer.

At his desk, Eric keeps an American flag and patches from his Army stint. They keep him grounded and remind him of those he met while he served.

“They remind me of how far I’ve come in my life,” Eric said. “Growing up in a small town, I never thought I’d do much. It’s a nice reminder of my journey to who I am today.”

That person today has a lot he’s thankful for. Eric and Macey’s children (ages 11, 8, 6 and 2) are a houseful of joy and chaos. They live in the beautiful Driftless region near La Farge. Eric enjoys woodworking and hunting as he has time.

He’s always at the ready to help if anyone needs it. And now he has this new role at Organic Valley.

We are so fortunate to have Eric on our team. To veterans everywhere, thank you for your service.

“The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment,” Judd Gregg, former governor of New Hampshire.

Lisa Mennenga is the daughter of Organic Valley dairy farmers from southeastern Minnesota. She lives in St. Paul with her husband and two sons and works in marketing at the University of Minnesota. Mennenga enjoys writing, card games, trying recipes and spending time with loved ones.

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