In June of 2013 Stonyfield launched a project to investigate the opportunities for growing organic dairy production in the Northeast. We have spent the months since then talking to farmers, agriculture extension agents, state departments of agriculture, researchers, economists, investors and lenders, feed suppliers, land trusts, farming organizations, and other dairy related businesses in the Northeast to get their input on the challenges and opportunities for growing organic dairy in this region.
We learned a lot from these conversations. Much of what we learned confirmed the concern that led us to start this investigation in the first place – growth in the amount of organic milk produced in the Northeast has slowed substantially, and more needs to be done if we are going to reverse this trend and preserve existing organic dairies well into the future.
We also learned that there are a lot of great resources and ideas out there that could help improve organic dairy farms’ profitability and create opportunities to grow organic dairy. Proven but underused ways of delivering technical assistance, innovative financing mechanisms, new initiatives to help aspiring organic dairy farmers get started, greater focus on organic feed in the Northeast, and new strategies for connecting farmers with land are all things that we think are part of the solution. We plan on sharing more about what we learned in the months to come.
As a part of our project we looked at whether there could be any benefits to our business and the goal of increasing organic milk production in this region by sourcing a small portion of our milk needs directly from farms. Stonyfield has decided to source a small percentage of our milk directly from farmers in this region in the coming years. Since we became 100% organic in 2007, we have purchased all of our milk from CROPP Cooperative. This move does not represent in any way a split with CROPP/Organic Valley. We value our strong relationship with CROPP and their farmer members, and we would like any new milk we bring on to be in addition to the high-quality milk we already receive from CROPP producers in this region.
We plan to focus our efforts on these three strategies:
- Recruiting new farmers to get started in organic dairy
- Helping conventional farmers transition to organic
- Working with existing organic dairy farmers who want to grow their herd or help the next generation take over the farm
If you are a farmer or aspiring farmer who fits into one of these three areas, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.