It all started in 1988. We were a handful of Midwest family farmers and we were fed up with the state of American agriculture. Family farms were going extinct.
Our friends and neighbors around the Coulee region were discarded by a bankrupt agricultural system, and we were told to “get big, or get out!” Industrial, chemical farming was the only existing option for survival. Never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.
But we didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers. And we didn’t want to be at the mercy of corporate agriculture. We knew we had to do something. So one farmer, George Siemon, put up posters calling us to band together. And we did. Family farmers filled the county courthouse and we all agreed: There had to be a better way—a more sustainable way—to continue farming like we always had. In a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how our farmer-owned cooperative was born, with George as CEIEIO.
CEO George Siemon leading the first meeting at the Viroqua Courthouse, 1988.
We were on a mission to change the way people think about food. We set high organic standards for ourselves—standards that eventually served as framework for the USDA’s organic rules. We started with organic vegetables and pooled our crops to sell in local communities. Hence the name CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool).
Before a year had passed, we started selling organic dairy. And people could tell the difference. Our local communities began choosing our premium, organic milk over other options, and we realized that we were certainly right about one thing—people wanted quality food.
Organic Valley's headquarters in La Farge, Wisconsin using LEED-certified practices.
As demand for our organic foods quickly grew, so did farmers’ interest in joining our cooperative. Family farmers all over the country wanted to be part of this thriving movement. But as we expanded out of the Coulee Region, it became obvious we needed a brand name. After all, we couldn’t keep calling our cheese CROC (Coulee Region Organic Cheese).
After weeks of brainstorming, a couple of our very first employees came up with a name: Organic Valley. And with a new name and our cooperative business model, we soon emerged as the nation’s leading producer of organic dairy.
Now, after 29 years in business, we continue to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy and eggs. But our mission to create a healthier future never ends.