Organic Dairy

Spotlight on Strafford Organic Creamery

As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’d like to take a moment to shine our Co-op Spotlight on a Vermont dairy that keeps us stocked in local, organic milk and some of the best ice cream we’ve ever tasted. Strafford Organic Creamery is nestled in the hills of Strafford, Vermont on the 600-acre Rockbottom Farm, which has been in the family for two generations. Farmer Earl Ransom and his wife, Amy Huyffer, milk 65 grass-fed Guernsey cows and carry on the tradition of tending the land organically without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, just as Earl’s father did when he first founded the farm in the 1960s. Amy generally focuses on running the creamery while Earl handles the farming aspects of the operation. Their four young boys also help out on the farm, making it a true family affair. 

Photo by Amy Donohue Photography

Their herd is made up of Guernsey cows, famous for their rich, yellow cream, perfect for making premium milk and ice cream. The cows spend the entire growing season rotating on fresh pasture, grazing high-quality forage including grass, alfalfa, legumes, and clover. They rotationally graze across 56 paddocks, moving onto fresh pasture every 12 hours, turning sunshine into food, and sequestering carbon along the way. This same forage is harvested and stored for feeding the cows through the colder months.  According to Amy and Earl, “everything we do, from the crops we grow for them to the gentle routines of milking, is focused on their comfort and well-being, and helping them create super-tasty milk and cream.”

 

Photo by Amy Donohue Photography

 

Their commitment to the environment is not only evident in the way they chose to farm, but also in the reusable glass packaging they choose for their milk. In December of 2019, when Kimball Brook Farm announced they would be ceasing production of their organic dairy products, Amy and Earl received many requests from retailers asking Strafford Organic Creamery to consider switching to plastic jugs to fill the void left on the retail shelves in the wake of Kimball Brook’s closure. After reaching out to gather community input and giving consideration to the vast quantity of virgin plastic that transition would add to the waste stream, they held strong on their commitment to packaging their milk in reusable glass. According to Amy, “we don’t get all our first choices on everything we do, but we do get to choose how we care for this beautiful piece of land, which cows to milk and how to feed and house them, what ingredients to add (or not add) to our products, and what kind of bottle to put it in. It feels really good, after going to all the trouble to make milk like this, to put it in a bottle that will keep the milk cold on the counter, seal in the flavor, and that we’ll see circle around again next month.”

Earl is one of only three Black dairy farmers in the state of Vermont, according to the 2017 USDA Census data. This past February, VPR interviewed Earl about his experiences as a Black farmer in a state and occupation that is predominantly white. Despite the fact that Earl was born and raised on his Vermont farm and is carrying on a rich farming heritage started by his father, he still reports feeling like an outsider. “Nobody expects to see a Black guy milking cows or driving a tractor,” he says. He reports routinely receiving visits from seed salesmen or other drop-ins who ask to speak to his boss. Unfortunately, he bears the burden of helping these visitors see the error in their ways and check their preconceived notions about what a farm owner looks like. These kinds of microaggressions occur so regularly that Earl has become used to them, though, of course, it’s not Earl’s job to educate others about racism or the challenges of being a Black farmer in Vermont. 

Despite the ailing state of the dairy industry in Vermont, Strafford Organic Creamery remains financially sound. Earl credits their ongoing success to their loyal local fanbase and the fact that their farm controls their own production, bottling their own milk since 2001 and making weekly batches of their ice cream by hand. He believes that there is a place for Vermont dairy in the broader agricultural landscape, despite the challenges the industry faces and he’s optimistic that his sons will want to carry the torch into the next generation at Rockbottom Farm. 

 

Strafford Organic Creamery from Farmers To You on Vimeo.

Spotlight on Butterworks Farm

Butterworks Farm is basking in the glow of the Member Deals Spotlight this week and all of their local, organic, grass-fed dairy products are 20% off for member-owners from March 26th – April 1st. Read on to learn more about this local farm worked by three generations of the Lazor Family over forty–six years to bring you high-quality products with a deep emphasis on regenerative practices that promote soil building, carbon sinking, water retention, and biodiversity:

Over forty years ago, Jack and Anne Lazor came to Westfield, VT fresh out of college with degrees in Agricultural History (Jack) and Anthropology (Anne). As long-time sustainable farmers and leaders in organic farming, they continue to play an important role in the dynamics and operations at Butterworks and beyond. Jack is a writer and frequent inspirational keynote speaker at organic farming conferences everywhere. He enjoys food, friends and pursuing his passions- sustainability and soil science. Anne keeps Jack and the farm running as Jack’s home dialysis technician and a caring presence for the entire team. She enjoys gardening, keeping chickens and ducks, the study of homeopathic medicine and upholds the homesteading spirit she and Jack started with 40 years ago. Their daughter Christine Lazor grew up at Butterworks and now has a family of her own. A deep love for the team, the farm, the animals, the products and the mountains keep her inspired as she and her family carry on the rich farming traditions that her parents began.

Their cows are a herd of very friendly and sometimes precocious Jerseys. Each has her own name and stanchion in the barn during milking. They choose Jerseys for their ability to produce milk on a  100% grass-fed diet. High fiber and mineral-rich grasses, legumes, and forages are available to the cows always in the lush, rotationally grazed pastures of summer and the sweet hay in the winter solar barn.

Their farming methods have evolved over the years. For the first forty years, they were grain growers and hay producers. Cereal crops such as oats, wheat, and barley, along with row crops like corn and soy fit neatly into their crop rotations with grasses and legumes. From the straw for the animals bedding to the grain the cows ate, everything was grown on the farm. Over the years, as their soil health and fertility increased, the quality of their forages improved until they realized that they could likely reduce the amount of grain that was being fed to the cows. By 2016, they had phased out grains completely and became a 100% grass-fed dairy, rotating the cows on fresh pasture every twelve hours.  

 

Jack Lazor shared on the Butterwork’s Farm blog that, “our transition to 100% grass-fed is well worth it.  Despite the fact that we will need more land and sharpened management skills to do this, we are very happy to promote more grass and less grain (and subsequently less tillage) on the land that we steward.  More grass means more fibrous root systems in the soil.  Less grain means less tillage and better soil health.  Less tillage means less burning of fossil fuels and less disturbance to the delicate balance of microorganisms in our soils.

“Our primary goal in farming is to take more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and through photosynthesis, lock it up in the Earth’s crust as humus and organic matter.  Higher carbon levels in the soil are the number one weapon that we as humans have to reduce and eliminate the effects of a changing climate.  We are excited to be trying something challenging and new.  Our farming practices were already focused on mineralization and soil health which has built a vibrant farm organism.  Our switch to 100% grass-fed dairying is taking us to new levels.  It is incredibly hard work, but so much fun and what we are learning we want to share with others in the process.”

 

Spotlight on Champlain Valley Creamery

We’re casting our Member Deals Spotlight on a local organic creamery that produces delicious award-winning cheeses just a few short miles from the Co-op. Champlain Valley Creamery uses traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheese entirely by hand in a net-zero solar-powered facility in Middlebury. Their fantastic lineup of cheeses are all 20% off for Member-owners from December 12th – 18th — just in time for your holiday parties! Read on to learn more about this fabulous local creamery and the people who make it shine:

 

 

Champlain Valley Creamery was first established in 2003 by founder and owner Carleton Yoder. With a graduate degree in food science and a background in wine and hard cider making, Yoder was eager to run his own food business. With Vermont’s abundance of amazing local milk, small-scale cheesemaking just made sense. Yoder began his adventures in cheesemaking in a facility in Vergennes where he focused on two products: Organic Champlain Triple and Old Fashioned Organic Cream Cheese. Both have been awarded well-deserved honors from the prestigious American Cheese Society.

Carleton Yoder

Over the years, the creamery has continued to grow and expand its offerings, eventually moving into a net-zero solar-powered facility on Middlebury’s Exchange Street in 2012. Yoder and his small crew now produce an expanded lineup of cheeses including Queso Fresco (available in original, house-smoked, and pepper varieties),  Maple Cream Cheese, a pyramid-shaped triple cream with a layer of ash known as Pyramid Scheme, and, most recently, they began importing Italian truffles to produce the Champlain Truffle Triple.

 

The Creamery also made a recent switch to using 100% grass-fed organic milk from the Severy Farm in Cornwall. The milk only travels a few short miles from the farm to the creamery, where the cheesemaking begins within hours of arrival. The use of grass-fed milk results in a richer, creamier cheese that displays subtle seasonal changes reflective of the changing diet of the cows as the seasons progress. It’s truly the terroir of Addison County in each decadent bite of cheese.

salting a fresh batch of Queso Fresco

Yoder is supported by a small crew that is just as dedicated to the craft as he is. They use traditional techniques and small-batch pasteurization to produce their cheeses entirely by hand.  A recent visit to their facility found the crew in constant motion, measuring, stirring, monitoring temperatures, and generally putting every bit of the day’s fresh batch of milk to good use. The bulk of the cream and whole milk are used to produce the Organic Champlain Triple, Champlain Truffle Triple, and the two varieties of cream cheese. The part-skim milk is then transformed into each of the three varieties of Queso Fresco, and the whey is drained off to create hand-dipped, basket-strained ricotta that is only available to a few select restaurants in the area. The only remaining by-product is a small amount of whey, which is sent to feed the happy pigs at Hinesburg’s Full Moon Farm, resulting in an operation that his hyper-local with very minimal waste. 

Amanda Warren & Carleton Yoder, with Carleton’s daughter,  Lila Cook Yoder, who was helping out on a snow day

According to Yoder, “cheesemaking is hard work but we strive to let the milk, cream, culture, salt, and mold shine through with their amazing flavors.” It’s this minimalist approach and the desire to honor the high-quality local ingredients that make Champlain Valley Creamery’s cheeses shine.

Picture hanging above Yoder’s desk made by his son, Nate

 

Spotlight on Organic Valley Co-op

October is Co-op Month and we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight this week on America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers – Organic Valley!  All Organic Valley products are 20% off for member-owners from October 3rd – 9th! Read on to learn more about Organic Valley’s rich history, their commitment to their farmer-owners, and to the environment:

Their Story

Friends and neighbors around the Coulee region were discarded by a bankrupt agricultural system, and 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 they didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers. And they didn’t want to be at the mercy of corporate agriculture. They knew something had to be done. So one farmer, George Siemon, put up posters calling his fellow farmers to band together. And they did. Family farmers filled the county courthouse and all agreed: There had to be a better way—a more sustainable way—to continue farming like they always had. In a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how their farmer-owned cooperative was born, with George as CEO.

This pioneering group of farmers set high organic standards, which eventually served as the framework for the USDA’s organic rules. The cooperative first focused on organic vegetables, calling themselves the CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool) Cooperative, and within a year they expanded to include organic dairy. Demand for their organic products grew, as did farmers’ interest in joining the thriving cooperative. Interest came from farmers and consumers all over the country, and it became clear that they needed a new name to represent their broader base. With that, the CROPP cooperative became Organic Valley. 

 

Now, almost 30 years later, Organic Valley continues to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy, and eggs. They remain farmer-owned and remain true to the powerful working model that puts the environment, wholesome quality food, and the farmer first. Their CEO is a farmer, one of the original founding farmers of Organic Valley. Even after all these years, George is pretty stubborn about the whole idea of giving consumers better food for their families while helping other small family farmers earn a fair wage for a quality product. Click here to read more about George, the “reluctant CEO”.

Why Grass Matters:

While most dairy cows spend their lives confined to dirt feedlots, all Organic Valley cows are free to roam pasture, eat green grass, and do what cows are supposed to do. Forgoing chemicals in their fields and raising cows on pasture keeps everyone healthier, reduces harmful runoff and builds living soil that actually draws carbon out of the atmosphere. It’s how cows were meant to live. 

 

 

Click HERE to read more about the family of farmers that make up the Organic Valley Co-op and find out if there are any near you!

Click HERE for the top 5 reasons to choose organic.

Click HERE for fabulous recipes.

Spotlight on Neighborly Farms

As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on a fantastic local, organic dairy farm hailing from Randolph Center, VT: Neighborly Farms! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their award-winning organic cheeses from June 20th – 26th!  Read on to learn more about this 210-acre organic dairy farm that calls VT home:

Neighborly-Farms. Round Logo

Established as an operating dairy farm in the 1920s, Rob and Linda Dimmick, along with their son Bobby and his wife, Brooke, are continuing the tradition of family farming. Nestled in the rolling hills of Randolph Center, Vermont, Neighborly Farms decorates the countryside with its red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s. They operate on 210 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy and a sugarhouse for producing pure Vermont maple syrup. The lush green fields are home to 70 Holsteins in the warmer months and provide hay for the cows during the cold Vermont winters. 

The Dimmick’s are continuing the family farming tradition because they have a deeply-rooted passion for the land and animals. They are a totally organic farm. This means the farm is run in complete harmony with the land and the animals; no antibiotics, no hormones, and no commercial fertilizers. Just pure and natural techniques that keep the cows healthy, happy, and the dairy products wholesome and chemical-free. It means that the high-quality cheeses produced at Neighborly Farms are 100% organic and reflect the terroir of their surroundings. 

Neighborly Farms of Vermont is not just another dairy farm. Their commitment to organic practices and their solar energy system illustrate their love for the land and animals and deep respect for the environment.  They’ve made an active choice to integrate sustainable practices that best care for the earth, their cows, and their neighbors in both this generation and for generations to become. They make cheese the old-fashioned way and believe that caring for the land and surroundings helps them produce the finest cheeses possible.

At the Co-op, you’ll find a rotating variety of their small-batch cheeses including Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby, Feta, Green Onion Cheddar, and their staple Raw Milk Cheddar, many of which have been honored with awards from the prestigious American Cheese Society. They hope you enjoy them and they thank you for supporting your local, organic dairy farms!

June is Dairy Month

Since 1937, Americans have been celebrating June as National Dairy Month. As we take this time to heartily celebrate our dairy farmers this month, it’s hard to avoid mention of the many challenges that dairy farmers in Vermont and across the country continue to face as they endure the fifth consecutive year of low farm-gate milk prices. This means that the price farmers are paid for the milk they produce is well below the cost of production. As a recent press release from Rural Vermont states, “our agricultural heartbeat is in threat, as is our farmland. With an average farmer age of 58 and consistently inadequate milk prices, the future for our dairy community, and its accompanying 80% of Vermont’s agricultural land is in jeopardy as it goes through a formative transition.” 

The Local Scene

Our local dairy farmers need our support now more than ever, though some recent developments give us reason to feel optimistic.  In April of 2019 over 50 Vermont dairy farmers and eaters gathered for a meeting geared toward developing strategies for viability. The overwhelming sentiment shared throughout the meeting was one of hope and gratitude for the local support they’re receiving. The six dairy farmers on the panel that day, along with many other conventional and organic dairy farmers in attendance, underscored the value of having strong local support. They recognized the need to provide ongoing education for the community about the impact of supporting local dairy. As George van Vlaanderen of Does’ Leap Farm in East Fairfield stated, “It’s contingent on us to educate friends and neighbors about where our food comes from and the impact of voting with your dollars. We can support a prosperous agricultural future by supporting our farmer neighbors today.” Amber Machia of Red Barn in HIghgate echoed his sentiments, reminding those in attendance that impact of spending food dollars locally extends well beyond the farms, affecting the multitude of other local businesses connected to local dairy farms, including feed supply stores, trucking companies, label and package makers, and distribution hubs.

Happy grass-fed cows at Butterworks Farm

National Support

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, played a key role in forging the 2018 Farm Bill’s dairy priorities and, as a result of his efforts, the Farm Bill dramatically expanded support for dairy producers, providing flexible, affordable coverage options through the new Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program. The goal of the Farm Bill is to benefit producers of all sizes, but offers up to five times more support for the smallest farms, as those farms tend to be hardest hit during times of crisis. This is particularly good news for Vermont dairy farmers, as most manage herds of less than 200 cattle, qualifying them as small dairies by national standards. Leahy, along with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and others, penned a bipartisan letter in April asking Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize the implementation of the dairy provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill to help provide some much-needed relief to dairy farmers without delay. Leahy followed that up with an additional bipartisan letter on May 17th urging Perdue to increase trade war relief payments to a level that more accurately reflects the damages dairy farmers have faced, as the current trade mitigation program has failed to fairly compensate dairy farmers slammed by retaliatory tariffs. It sure is nice to have a local Senator fighting so hard for our farmers.

Milk with Dignity

A bright spot in local dairy news this year was the adoption of the Milk with Dignity program by local dairy giant Ben & Jerry’s. In a recent article in VT Digger, Marita Canedo, Migrant Justice staff member and event panelist representing the Milk with Dignity Program, reflected on Ben & Jerry’s adoption of the program as a human rights victory. “It took more than two years in a public campaign and 4 years in conversation. We had to have translators and it took a long time, but we finally had everyone at the same table. There are human rights in that ice cream.” The Milk with Dignity Program brings together farmers, farmworker, buyers, and consumers to ensure dignified working conditions in the dairy supply chain, asking the corporations making the most in the dairy industry to pay for a higher standard of human rights for workers.

This came as part of a larger Values-Led Dairy Vision adopted by Ben & Jerry’s, which specifies that all dairy used by Ben & Jerry’s in the manufacture of its products will be sourced from dairy farms which have:

  • Thriving and dignified livelihoods for farmers and farm workers
  • Exceptional animal welfare standards for cows
  • A flourishing ecosystem in which feed is grown ecologically, without the use of harmful chemicals or GMOs, and in a way that protects water resources and promotes biological diversity
  • Farm operations acting as a net carbon sink through minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil.

Ben & Jerry’s sources most of the milk and cream from members of the St. Albans Cooperative. 

Grass-fed Organic Dairy Offers Solutions

The US milk glut and the accompanying drop in dairy prices over the past few years have wielded a tough blow for conventional and organic dairy farmers alike, though organic and grass-fed dairy farms are still faring better than their conventional counterparts. Consumers are beginning to recognize the importance of supporting organic dairy production that utilizes traditional pasture-based systems of rotational grazing. Not only does this system of natural grazing aid the environment in terms of soil restoration, increased biodiversity, improved water quality, and flood mitigation – but it also it guarantees healthy lives for the animals, and they, in turn, produce meat and milk that is healthier for us than the grain-fed alternatives. Soil scientists have determined that grazing animals are critical to the process of building soil organic matter. According to Jean Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm, who presented at the recent Real Organic Project Symposium at Dartmouth, a mere one-percent increase in the soil organic matter on the four billion acres that are used for agricultural production on our planet would allow for the sequestration of 102 billion tons of carbon dioxide. When raising livestock using managed rotational grazing, it is possible to sink more carbon than one is producing, making organic agricultural production an active part of the solution to the ongoing threat of climate change.  

Happy grass-fed cows at Larson Farm & Creamery

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Organic Valley Co-op

October is Co-op Month and we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight this week on America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers – Organic Valley!  All Organic Valley products are 20% off for member-owners from October 4th – 10th! Read on to learn more about Organic Valley’s rich history, their commitment to their farmer-owners, and to the environment:

Their Story

Friends and neighbors around the Coulee region were discarded by a bankrupt agricultural system, and 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 they didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers. And they didn’t want to be at the mercy of corporate agriculture. They knew something had to be done. So one farmer, George Siemon, put up posters calling his fellow farmers to band together. And they did. Family farmers filled the county courthouse and all agreed: There had to be a better way—a more sustainable way—to continue farming like they always had. In a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how their farmer-owned cooperative was born, with George as CEO.

This pioneering group of farmers set high organic standards, which eventually served as the framework for the USDA’s organic rules. The cooperative first focused on organic vegetables, calling themselves the CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool) Cooperative, and within a year they expanded to include organic dairy. Demand for their organic products grew, as did farmers’ interest in joining the thriving cooperative. Interest came from farmers and consumers all over the country, and it became clear that they needed a new name to represent their broader base. With that, the CROPP cooperative became Organic Valley. 

 

Now, almost 30 years later, Organic Valley continues to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy, and eggs. They remain farmer-owned and remain true to the powerful working model that puts the environment, wholesome quality food, and the farmer first. Their CEO is a farmer, one of the original founding farmers of Organic Valley. Even after all these years, George is pretty stubborn about the whole idea of giving consumers better food for their families while helping other small family farmers earn a fair wage for a quality product. Click here to read more about George, the “reluctant CEO”.

Why Grass Matters:

While most dairy cows spend their lives confined to dirt feedlots, all Organic Valley cows are free to roam pasture, eat green grass, and do what cows are supposed to do. Forgoing chemicals in their fields and raising cows on pasture keeps everyone healthier, reduces harmful runoff and builds living soil that actually draws carbon out of the atmosphere. It’s how cows were meant to live. 

 

 

Click HERE to read more about the family of farmers that make up the Organic Valley Co-op and find out if there are any near you!

Click HERE for the top 5 reasons to choose organic.

Click HERE to read about sustainability initiatives at Organic Valley.

Click HERE for fabulous recipes.

Spotlight on Neighborly Farms

As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’re shining our Co-op Spotlight on a fantastic local, organic dairy farm hailing from Randolph Center, VT: Neighborly Farms! Member-owners can enjoy 20% off their award-winning organic cheeses from June 21st – 27th! Read on to learn more about this 168-acre organic dairy farm that calls VT home:

Neighborly-Farms. Round Logo

Established as an operating dairy farm in the 1920’s, Rob and Linda Dimmick are continuing the tradition of family farming. Nestled in the rolling hills of Randolph Center, Vermont, Neighborly Farms decorates the countryside with its red barn and white post and beam farmhouse built in the 1800s. They operate on 168 acres with cropland and grazing fields to support the dairy and a sugarhouse for producing pure Vermont maple syrup. The clean and tidy barn is home to 70 Holsteins—the black and white cows that symbolize rural living at its very best.

Rob and Linda are continuing the family farming tradition because they have a passion for the land and animals. They are a totally organic farm. This means the farm is run in complete harmony with the land and the animals; no antibiotics, no hormones, and no commercial fertilizers. Just pure and natural techniques that keep the cows healthy, happy, and the dairy products wholesome and chemical-free. It means that the cheese produced at Neighborly Farms are pure and natural. And the best part? The organic cheeses taste great too.

Neighborly Farms of Vermont is not just another dairy farm. At their family farm, there is a deep love for the land and animals. That’s why they choose to be an organic farm. It’s a way of showing that they care about their surroundings and neighbors. Neighborly Farms produces eleven kinds of delicious organic cheeses; all made with wholesome milk from their well-cared-for Holstein cows. They make cheese the old-fashioned way and believe that caring for the land and surroundings helps them produce the finest cheeses possible.

At the Co-op, you’ll find a rotating variety of their cheeses including Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby, Feta, Green Onion Cheddar, and their staple Raw Milk Cheddar, many of which have been honored with awards from the prestigious American Cheese Society. They hope you enjoy them and they thank you for supporting your local, organic dairy farms!

June is Dairy Month

Since June of 1937, Americans have been celebrating National Dairy Month. As we celebrate, it’s important to note that the Dairy Industry is making headlines lately due to sustained low milk prices which continue to deliver a tough blow to dairy farmers – particularly small dairy farmers managing fewer than 200 cattle. In Vermont, small dairy farms are the majority, so this downturn in the dairy market is hitting Vermont communities particularly hard. While times are tough for our local dairy farmers, it’s important to remember just how critical these farmers are to our local economy.

Here are a few facts about dairy in Vermont:

Economy

  • Dairy brings $2.2 billion to Vermont’s economy
  • Dairy brings $3 million in circulating cash to the state, each day
  • Annual sales of Vermont dairy products and by-products = $1.3 billion
  • Dairy accounts for more than 70% of Vermont’s agricultural sales
  • 6,000 – 7,000 jobs in our state depend on dairy
  • 63% of New England’s milk supply comes from Vermont
  • Every cow brings $12,500 in economic activity to Vermont annually
  • $400 million in annual dairy sales comes from fluid milk
  • $650 million in annual dairy sales comes from cheese
  • A whopping $1.3 billion in annual dairy sales comes from the sale of dairy-based items like yogurt and ice cream

Landscape

  • Vermont has about 750 family-owned dairy farms, the majority of which have less than 200 cows
  • 15% of the state is covered by dairy farms and the fields that provide their feed
  • More than 80% of Vermont’s farmland is dedicated to dairy
  • About 25% of Vermont’s dairy farms are certified organic

Way of Life

  • 97% of Vermonters say dairy farms are important to the state
  • 92% of Vermonters say dairy farms add to the beauty of Vermont
  • 91% of Vermonters say dairy is important to Vermont’s way of life
  • Vermont has the highest number of artisanal cheesemakers per capita
  • The Vermont Cheese Council lists 49 active cheesemakers
  • The Co-op carries over 100 local cheeses!

 

Organic Dairy

Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), the organic certification program of NOFA-VT, has just over 200 dairies certified in Vermont; up from just 33 in 1998. This increase in organic dairy production in Vermont is something to celebrate for a number of reasons. On an organic dairy farm, cows graze on pasture during the growing season, eat organically grown feed, and are not treated with hormones or antibiotics. Well-managed organic dairy farms are less harmful to the environment than conventional dairies (think:  a cleaner Lake Champlain!), and there is evidence that the milk they produce may be better for our health, thanks to higher amounts of CLA (an antioxidant) and ALA (an Omega 3 fatty acid).

While this increase in organic production is exciting, it’s also true that organic dairy farmers are not immune to the tough times in the dairy industry. According to NOFA-VT, “Organic dairy farms in Vermont, and nationwide, are seeing historic lows in their pay price, with some farmers receiving an almost $10/cwt (hundredweight, or hundred pounds of milk) drop over the past year. Some milk buyers have also implemented a quota, limiting the amount of milk a farm is able to produce. The pay price and situation differ among milk buyers, as they have all been affected by, and handled, the oversupply differently. These sudden, and for some, drastic changes in pay price means that some farmers are being paid close to, at or even below their cost of production, and can not make ends meet. Due to this, we’ve seen an increase in disaster requests for our Farmer Emergency Fund from organic dairy farmers for assistance in meeting their feed costs and covering basic needs.” If you’re interested in contributing to this fund and helping provide a much-needed lifeline to these farmers that mean so much to our local economy, click here.

Spotlight on Organic Valley Co-op

October is Co-op Month and we’re shining our Member Deals Spotlight this week on America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers – Organic Valley!  All Organic Valley products are 20% off for member-owners from October 5th – 11th! Read on to learn more about Organic Valley’s rich history, their commitment to their farmer-owners, and to the environment:

In the 1980’s, a dairy farming crisis was underway. The price for milk fell below production costs and the dairy farmers producing it were facing economic extinction. Farmers were told to “get big or get out”. Industrial, chemical farming was presented as the only existing option for survival. Never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.

There were many farmers who simply didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers at the mercy of corporate agriculture. Thankfully, in 1988 a Wisconsin farmer named George Siemon hung posters calling like-minded farmers in his community to band together. Family farmers filled the Viroqua county courthouse and all agreed that there had to be a better, more sustainable way to continue doing the work they loved in a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how their farmer-owned cooperative was born.

This pioneering group of farmers set high organic standards, which eventually served as the framework for the USDA’s organic rules. The cooperative first focused on organic vegetables, calling themselves the CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool) Cooperative, and within a year they expanded to include organic dairy. Demand for their organic products grew, as did farmers’ interest in joining the thriving cooperative. Interest came from farmers and consumers all over the country, and it became clear that they needed a new name to represent their broader base. With that, the CROPP cooperative became Organic Valley. 

 

Now, almost 30 years later, Organic Valley continues to produce some of the highest quality organic dairy, vegetables, soy, and eggs. They remain farmer-owned and remain true to the powerful working model that puts the environment, wholesome quality food, and the farmer first.

Click HERE to read more about the family of farmers that make up the Organic Valley Co-op and find out if there are any near you!

Click HERE for the top 5 reasons to choose organic.

Click HERE to read about sustainability initiatives at Organic Valley.

Click HERE for fabulous recipes.

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