Organic Valley’s “Who’s your Farmer” Tour comes to northern California

Organic Valley’s Generation Organic “Who’s Your Farmer” event took place in my hometown in northern California as part of their West Coast bus tour.

The tour was an opportunity for people to learn how their personal choices about food affect their health, the planet and their future.

Knowing your farmer is also about knowing where your food is coming from, says Michelle Pedretti, Organic Valley’s Farmers in Marketing Manager.

More Americans are buying organic products than ever before. According to The Hartman Group’s “Beyond Organic and Natural 2010” report, three-fourths of American consumer buy organic products.

The number of farms has decreased dramatically over the past several decades. Since 1981, over 750,000 family farms have disappeared, translating into the loss of over one million jobs. The national trend toward large corporation-type farms like Cargill and ConAgra and continually escalating costs has forced out generations-owned smaller family farms.

In 1988, “a few farmers took a big risk, saying that they could market a premium product and still have farmers make a living and to ensure a viable and honorable career,” said Casey Knapp, a twenty-something Generation Organic farmer from upstate New York.

Those Wisconsin farmers formed Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool (CROPP), which has evolved into Organic Valley, now recognized as the #1 organic milk producer in the country. This national cooperative consists of over 1,600 family owned and run farms committed to organic agriculture and building a future for sustainable family farming in America.

Organic Valley guarantees a stable pay price to its farmer-owner coop members – the Americanized version of a Fair Trade policy.

These knowledgable young farmers of Generataion Organic bring their passion to organic farming

The coop breaks profits down into three segments: 45 percent goes to the marketing team and the company, 45 percent to the dairyman and 10 percent goes back to the dairyman’s community as a way of giving back.

Generation Organic’s three-week bus tour consists of young farmers between the ages of 18-35. They are from places like Coos Bay, Oregon and Modesto, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Although many of them were born into farming, they’ve all stayed the course to help run their family’s organic farms, applying best practices of sustainability.

Laura Boere, part of Organic Valley since 1998, said when they changed to organic, she saw changes in her dad because of sustainability and a steady paycheck.

Spinning the Gen-O wheel to learn about sustainable farming

“Bankers love it,” Boere said, “because you have a long term plan. Dairymen love it because we can farm and make plans (for) the long run. She saw a future in organics, she said.

“These early 20-somethings – in many cases 5th generation farmers – are bringing a new energy and new vision to agriculture,” said Leslie Kruempel, Social Media Specialist for Organic Valley.

“Generation Organic gives these young organic farmers an opportunity to share their vision for a better world,” said George Siemon, a founding farmer of Organic Valley and its C-E-I-E-I-O.  “These young people are the future of sustainable agriculture—their hard work and enthusiasm is inspirational to us all.”

Arriving in their colorful, bio-fueled bus, Generation Organic’s farmers spoke about labeling of genetically modified (GMO) foods. Polls show over 90 percent of Americans favor food labeling, Handing out postcards encouraging people to log onto JustLabelit.org to speak up, Cerra Westaby, a farmer from Illinois said “it’s important for people to know what’s in their food.”

Gen-0 farmers answer questions about healthy food choices and organic farming

“It’s important to have labeling for GM seeds and food so everybody knows where their food comes from and they can trust its source,” said farmer Blaise Knapp.

“The biggest thing they’re trying to get across,” said Pedretti, “is it’s time to be conscious about choices we’re making every day and the impact our food choices make on our selves (and) the planet.”

The tour has made stops at various Western region college campuses including Montana State University, University of Portland, Oregon Culinary Institute and Oregon State University. Its next stops include University of California-Chico, UC Davis, the 2011 Bioneers Conference in San Rafael and its final stop at Stanford University.

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One Response

  1. love the post, thanks for sharing!

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