Organic Valley, America's largest cooperative of organic farms and one of the nation's leading organic brands, recognized 512 of its farmer-owners with Outstanding Quality Awards at the cooperative's annual meeting held last week in La Crosse.
Organized in 1988, Organic Valley represents 1,617 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces with the mission of saving family farms through organic agriculture. More than 450 of its farmer-owners descended upon southwest Wisconsin April 7-9 to attend the annual meeting to discuss the cooperative's current direction, issues and goals for the year ahead.
Organic Valley dairy, produce, soy, egg, juice and feed crop farmers and Organic Prairie beef, poultry and pork farmers were recognized for quality achievements in 2010 during an awards banquet on Friday, April 8. Organic Valley honored its dairy farmers in Gold, Silver, Bronze and Milk Quality Recognition categories. To achieve these honors, Gold Award recipients needed an average Somatic Cell Count of less than 100,000; Silver Award recipients an average SCC between 101,000 and 150,000; Bronze Award recipients an average SCC between 151,000 and 200,000 and Milk Quality Recognition recipients an average SCC between 201,000 and 244,000. In addition, all levels had to achieve a Standard Plate Count average below 20 and a Preliminary Incubation Count averaging less than 30. All Gold, Silver and Bronze winners received a plaque and the Milk Quality Recognition winners received certificates for their accomplishments.
"We're proud to honor more than 30 percent of our farmer-members who have earned our quality awards, which reflects the pride our members have in producing the best quality organic products," said George Siemon, C-E-I-E-I-O for Organic Valley and one of its founding farmers. "These and other dedicated farmer-members further strengthen our cooperative, a theme present at this year's annual meeting as we celebrated past successes and made collective decisions for the future benefit of our farmer-members and the organic industry." The following farmers received the top milk quality Gold Award, the "Cream of the CROPP," in each region:
• Eastern Region: Meyer Family, North Hardwick Dairy LLC, Hardwick, Vt.
• Midwest Region: Kevin and Mary Jahnke, Jahnke Family Farm Limited Partnership, Lancaster, Wis.
• Western Region: McMahan Family, Cowlitz Meadows Dairy, Inc., Randle, Wash.
The following farmers received Organic Valley's Top Egg, Produce, Feed Crop, Juice and Soy Quality Awards:
• Midwest Region Omega-3: Karl Wolf, Hillsboro, Wis.
• Midwest Region: Francis Blake, Waukon, Iowa
• East Region: John G. Stoltzfus, Willow Street, Penn.
• Kalona (Iowa) Pool: Alvin Beachy, Kalona, Iowa
Produce Pool: Reuben L. Miller, Cashton, Wis.
Feed Crop: Kevin Falk, Falk Farms, Tappen, N.D.
Juice Pool: Roper Growers Cooperative, Fla.
Soy Pool: Quality Organic Producers Cooperative (QOPC), Iowa
The following farmers received Organic Prairie's Top Beef, Pork and Poultry Quality Awards: Beef Pool: Gary, Kim & Clayton Welsh, Clint & Kelly Welsh, Welsh Family Organic Farms, Lansing, Iowa
Pork Pool: Jim & Sheila Campbell & Family, JC & F Organics, Rewey, Wis. Poultry Pool: Gary, Kim & Clayton Welsh, Clint & Kelly Welsh, Welsh Family Organic Farms, Lansing, Iowa
The annual Gen-O Award program recognized the following individual young farmers who have demonstrated a strong commitment to organic farming, and preserving the family farm and rural communities through leadership, stewardship and innovation.
Central Region: James Frantzen, New Hampton, Iowa
Western Region: Ross Bansen, Monmouth, Ore.
Eastern Region: Garin & Sarah Smith, Skowegan, Maine
Organic Valley also awarded the Ray Hass Organic Pioneer Award to Greg Welsh of Gays Mills, Wis. for his pioneering spirit and visionary work in the organic community. Welsh was Organic Valley's first employee, serving as the co-op's General Manager and remaining one of its most loyal members and consistent storytellers.
The Ray Hass Organic Pioneer Award is an annual memorial award given to an individual who is a pioneer in the organic movement and in the cooperative. The award is named after Ray Hass, a founding member of Organic Valley and one of the very first organic dairy farmers in the United States. Ray's vision of a farmer-owned organic cooperative and his tireless work advocating for family farmers were important and critical aspects to the success of the cooperative.
Farmers, by state, receiving Organic Valley's Gold Dairy Quality Awards for 2010:
Greg and Marci Bingham, Weston
Samuel & Idasue Petersheim, Lagrange
John & Kathryn Schrock, Shipshewana
Paul and Michele Philbrick, Knox
Samuel & Wilma Schmucker, Mio
John & Erma Hoover, Penn Yan
Ammon & Clara Yoder, Fultonville
Brookside Farm – Lloyd Gingerich, Belle Center
Leroy F. Meyer, Ft. Loramie
Michael & Mae Yoder, Apple Creek
James and Janet Byers, Mercersburg
Melvin & Katherine Stoltzfus, Spring Mills
Alice and Laurance Allen, Wells River
Stephen and Amelia Bothfeld, Fieldstone Organic Farm, Cabot Dave and Elaine Callan, Mountain View Farm, Fairfield
Leon and Linda Corse, The Corse Farm Dairy, LLC, Whitingham Robert & Laurie Grenon, North Troy David & Mary Ellen Franklin, Guilford Mike and Teresa Menard, Fairfield
Meyer Family, North Hardwick Dairy, Hardwick
David & Tina Houde, St. Johnsbury
Rene J. Fournier & Sons Farm, Inc., Swanton
Andrew & Lisa Sherman, East Dover
Ben Moulton and Amanda Taylor, Knox Ridge Holsteins, Troy
Paul and Kristine Stecker, Cabot
Garry & Eileen Trudell, East Fairfield
Tyler & Melanie Webb, Enosburg Falls
Jim and Janie Austin, Austin Family Farms, LLC, Oakville
Peter & Dorene Dykstra, Everson
McMahan Family, Cowlitz Meadow Dairy, Randle
Andy and Linda Styger, Chehalis
Richard & Jean Anhalt, New Holstein
Leonard DeFere, DeFere Family Dairy, Sturgeon Bay
Kevin and Mary Jahnke, Jahnke Family Farm, Lancaster
Mike and Julie Petherbridge, Petherbridge Family Farm, Dresser Robert & Lori Prahl, Luxemburg
Organic Valley: Independent and Farmer-Owned
Organic Valley is America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,617 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, and achieved $619 million in 2010 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, yogurt, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. The same farmers who produce for Organic Valley also produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic Prairie label. For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop, www.organicprairie.coop and the cooperative's farmer website, www.farmers.coop. Organic Valley is also on Twitter @Organic_Valley and Facebook www.facebook.com/OrganicValley.