Earlier this March, Organic Valley announced the single largest effort to save small organic family farms in the Northeast following news last year that Horizon and Maple Hill Creamery would be terminating contracts with more than 130 family farms. Organic Valley, a farmer-owned co-operative since its founding in 1988, is offering 80 small, Northeast organic family farms a market for their dairy through a letter of intent.
While Organic Valley is a national brand, they are committed to sustaining local farms including the more than 616 members in their Northeast Regional Pool. By working together through their co-operative, these family farms are able to negotiate for better prices, build economic efficiencies, and support one another through technical assistance and shared marketing. With the addition of new farmer-members in our region, food co-ops have an opportunity to contribute to the success of this effort by spreading the word and encouraging shoppers to sign on to the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership’s consumer pledge to increase their purchases from brands committed to sourcing from our region’s dairy farms, including Organic Valley.
“Our goal is to support the sustainability of organic dairy farms and rural economies here in our region,” said Erbin Crowell, Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), the first retail organization to join the Partnership. “And we know that co-operatives such as Organic Valley that build the collective strength of family farmers and gives them more control over their future are key to this effort. We are so appreciative of their leadership in helping to save these farms and look forward to further collaboration.”
While the 80 families decide whether to join the co-operative, 10 Northeast organic family farms have already done so. One of the 10 families who joined the co-operative this month is the Osgoods of Osgood Family Farm in Vermont.
“My family began farming this land over 65 years ago. I’m glad to partner with Organic Valley to continue our family farm,” said George Osgood of Corinth, Vermont. “A co-operative owned by small family farms is the perfect fit for us. It gives us the chance to keep doing what we love.”
Over the last decade, New England and New York State have lost hundreds of individual dairy farms. As a co-operative borne out of the farm crisis of the 1980s, the issue of saving small family farms is core to Organic Valley. And with 100,000 small family farms being lost over the last decade due to consolidation and industrialization, the fight is not over.
“We are the only national brand still fighting for small family farms because we know that the best quality food is ethically sourced from small family farms,” said Bob Kirchoff, Organic Valley CEO. “With the help of consumers and customers across the country, we are helping solve the crisis of disappearing small family farms. We are creating the food system we all want—one that regenerates soil, cares for animals, nourishes people, and strengthens communities.”