As part of our celebration of Dairy Month, we’re shining a bright Member Deals Spotlight on an organic family farm nestled in the rolling hills of Berlin, VT known as Rogers Farmstead. From June 15th – 21st, all Rogers Farmstead organic dairy products are 20% off for member-owners! Read on to learn more about this Real Organic farm and the family who churns out delicious dairy products for their community:
Nathan and Jessie Rogers met just over 20 years ago while both were working for IBM in Essex Junction, VT. Nate grew up on a dairy farm in Northern New York and had originally dreamed of a life in agriculture, but after observing the struggle that many dairy farmers were facing with declining milk prices and market oversaturation, he initially opted for a different path. Jessie grew up in Cape Cod and had established a career in chemical engineering when she met Nate. The couple married and happened to move next door to a dairy farm in Fletcher, VT, rekindling Nate’s love for the dairy life and sending the couple on a new trajectory back toward the land.
In 2012, they were able to purchase a 133-acre farm in Berlin that was conserved by the Vermont Land Trust. It needed a lot of work, but Jessie and Nathan had the energy and determination needed to breathe new life into the derelict farm. They still weren’t certain that dairy farming was the right niche, so they first experimented with farming organic grains. They understood the critical role of grazing animals in holistic ecological land management, and they had an existing barn, so they decided to bring in a few Jersey cows.
The Rogers soon found themselves with more milk than they needed and began dabbling in yogurt-making. In 2016, the bakers at Elmore Mountain Bread, who were buying most of the Rogers’ grains for their bakery, happened to introduce them to a mutual friend named Maurissa Mauro of Ploughgate Butter fame. Mauro had recently purchased Bragg Farm in nearby Fayston, VT, and had a creamery facility where the Rogers could experiment with producing their yogurt at a wholesale scale without the usual burden of needing to invest in infrastructure upfront. It gave Nate and Jessie the chance to hone their craft and establish markets for their dairy products.
Support for their dairy products was steadfast and strong, leading the Rogers to eventually expand their Jersey herd and construct their own creamery and farmstand on their farm in Berlin. They now produce organic cream-top milk; chocolate milk; whole milk yogurt in plain, maple, and vanilla; fresh mozzarella; and fresh cheese curds. Over the years, they’ve gradually phased out grain production on their farm to focus on maintaining pristine pasture and hayland for their grass-fed dairy herd. You can find their full range of products at their farmstand and, here at the Co-op, we’re proud to carry their milk and yogurt.
Nate now works full-time on the farm, and Jessie pitches in as often as possible around an off-farm job with the Agrimark cooperative. The couple is often flanked by their two young sons, Tristan and Elliot, who are both eager to pitch in and help where they can. On a recent visit to their farm for photographs for this feature, we were enthusiastically greeted and toured around the farm by Elliot, who was excited to point out that he’d soon be adding a veggie garden plot of his own. It’s good to know that Rogers Farmstead is already working on its succession plan!
The Rogers Farmstead is supported by the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership (NOFFP) and is Real Organic Certified, which is a third-party add-on label allowing small, organic, family-scale dairy farms to differentiate themselves in an ever-increasing landscape of industrial mega-dairies whose practices are no longer consistent with the original intentions of the organic program, despite their USDA organic labels. When you see a Real Organic label on a dairy product, you can be certain that you are supporting a small family farm whose cows are raised on pasture, with animal welfare and environmental stewardship at the forefront.
The Real Organic Project is a grassroots farmer-led movement working towards certifying thousands of farms across the United States. Their label distinguishes soil-grown fruits and vegetables from hydroponically-raised produce, and
pasture-raised meat, milk, and eggs from products harvested from animals in horrific confinement (CAFOs – confined animal feeding operations). The folks at the Real Organic Project believe that the organic standards, with their focus on soil health, biodiversity, and animal welfare were written as they should be, but that the current lack of enforcement of those standards is jeopardizing the ability for small farms who adhere to the law to stay in business. The lack of enforcement is also jeopardizing the overall health of the customers who support the organic movement; customers who are not getting what they pay for at market but still paying a premium price. And the lack of enforcement is jeopardizing the very cycles (water, air, nutrients) that Earth relies upon to provide us all with a place to live, by pushing extractive, chemical agriculture to the forefront.
We’re grateful to folks like the Rogers family, who are committed to pasture-based organic farming practices that offer solutions to the mounting challenges presented by a rapidly changing climate.