Every day, the Organic Valley farmers who supply our milk are up at the crack of dawn for the first of two daily milkings. Every day, the milk truck swings by the farm to pick up the day’s milk. And every day, those milk trucks pull in to Stonyfield to deliver that milk so we can turn it into organic yogurt.
Outside of occasional visits to Organic Valley farms in our area, it’s rare for the folks on either end of that milk truck to meet. That’s why, when Organic Valley called up a few months back to see if they could bring a group of 50 farmers to Stonyfield while they were touring the Northeast, my first thought was: “Party!” I’m sure there were lots of Power Points about Stonyfield that we could have made those farmers sit through, but really what I wanted to do was give Stonyfielders a chance to connect with the farmers who make the milk we use every day.
And so, we made breakfast for the Organic Valley farmers, and then sat down together to get to know each other. Indeed, getting to know each other is the whole point of Organic Valley’s annual tour, which they call the Regional Understanding Tour. The farmers were here from all over the country – Wisconsin, Oregon, Texas, South Dakota, etc. They go on the tour so they can meet other farmers in their 1500-member cooperative, and learn about how dairy is different in different parts of the country. Organic Valley believes that when members of their cooperative get to know and understand each other, they will be stronger for it.
In modern agriculture, it’s the sad norm that most people don’t know the people who are responsible for growing the food they eat. One meal at a fast food restaurant might contain ingredients grown in 50 different places. It’s rare for farmers to know where the food they grow ends up, and even rarer for them to know the people who process that food or the people who eventually eat it. Here at Stonyfield, we consider ourselves lucky to know that all of our milk comes from Organic Valley farms, and even luckier to actually know many of those farmers. Just like the growing number of people who are buying organic and shopping at their local farmers market, we believe everyone is better off when we know where our ingredients are coming from, and the people who grow them.
We couldn’t have pulled this breakfast off without a dedicated team of Stonyfielders working to make it happen. Jim Olsen and Kevin Connors cooked a delicious meal, Ben Angeloni and Matt Newsome served it up, and Liz Short, Rolf Carlson, Don Gallion, Carol Billings, Sue Melvin, Katie Jette, Sean Dillon, Lisa Drake, Kathy Apgar, Kevin Newhall, and Krysta Arabudzki and Jean-Guillaume Isenbart pitched in to keep everything going smoothly. The breakfast was not just a great reminder of how wonderful the people are who make our milk – it was also a great reminder of what a wonderful team we have here at Stonyfield.