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We Love Our Farmers - “What’s in Our Cup?” Series

February 8, 2012 | Amy VanHaren

Colin and Cow Sourcing Value #2: We source from family farmers whom we know and trust.

Our number two sourcing value is no second string. Our farmers are the source of all things Stonyfield. We started as one farm 28 years ago and today we support hundreds of family farms through our ingredient sourcing. We believe this is very important because running a family farm is no easy job and making sure the farm stays viable for generations to come is even harder.

Everyone benefits from family farmers. According to American Farmland Trust, we lose more than an acre of farmland every minute to development. In neighboring Vermont alone we’ve gone from having over 11,000 dairy farms in the 1940s to just 992 today. When farmland is paved over it can never be brought back into agricultural production. When we lose family farmers, we don’t just lose access to high quality, sustainably grown food, we essentially outsource our food security, environmental well-being, and rural economies to real estate developers or agribusiness. Local business owners, like family farmers, are held accountable by their customers and neighbors(rather than their shareholders)and have been proven, time and again, to add value to any community. By committing to source our ingredients from family farmers, we can ensure they stay in business, keep land in agriculture, and strengthen rural economies.

Organic family farmers go the extra mile and so do we. We believe it's important to source our ingredients from organic family farms who work hard everyday to care for their land, grow stellar food, and sustain the family business. It’s our job, and our pleasure, to get to know these farmers. When we visit a farm, we want to learn from the farmers and develop a relationship—one that we believe is mutually beneficial. This way we can carry the care each farmer has taken to grow and raise the best possible, top-quality ingredients through to every cup. That's why this sourcing value isn't just "we source from family farmers" but rather is "we source from family farmers whom we know and trust."

Even when we’re far from home, it’s still family. We source 95% of our ingredients domestically, only going overseas when we absolutely have to (you can read more about this in our post about Sourcing Value #3). When we must go far from home, we still travel to the source to make sure we know how our products are being grown. Recently, we've gone to Costa Rica to get to know the farmers who supply our bananas, and neighboring Quebec to meet the farmers who grow our wild organic blueberries. You can meet <http://www.stonyfield.com/yotube">some of our farmers here.

Organic is good for family farmers. Supporting a family from the farm is no easy task these days. Dairy is a particularly difficult industry in the super competitive modern market. As organic farmers, the family farmers of CROPP Cooperative earn a premium for the extra lengths they take to raise high-quality dairy cows. In fact, they have earned as much as 25% more per year than their non-organic counterparts. In a time when every penny counts, an extra quarter can make the difference between a farm that is here to stay and one that isn’t.

Liz and Saida definitely summed up our passion for family farmers best in our introduction to this series: “I love meeting the farmers and their families and getting them excited about sharing our mission of promoting organic agriculture and providing people with healthy, nutritious food grown with lots of love,” explains Saida. Liz agrees: “Visiting farms and attending farmer meetings is definitely one of the highlights for me because it makes it so clear how committed Stonyfield and Organic Valley are to what we do.” When everything is framed in terms of valued relationships, the complexity of supply chain lingo gets a little easier. Like Saida says: “Very few food companies can call most of their farmers by name and we are very proud of that!”

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