Organic Valley, America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation's leading organic brands, will reach a meaningful milestone in the new year: The co-op will grow to 2,000 farmer-owners by the first week of January, representing 12 percent of the organic farmers inthe United States. In 2016, Organic Valley welcomed more than 300 family farms to the cooperative for 16 percent growth, and added more than 40,000 acres of organic agricultural land.
"Now, more than ever, it's time to come together and cooperate," saidGeorge Siemon, a founding farmer and CEO of Organic Valley. "Our strength has always been in our unity and belief in the collective good. In a world of divisiveness, cooperation continues to be the key to success."
Founded in 1988 by seven struggling farm families inSouthwest Wisconsin, Organic Valley's mission today is still to save family farming through an organic, cooperative business model that ensures a fair pay price to farmers. That mission continues to be an urgent one; in 2015, conventional American farmers faced some of the toughest conditions they've seen since the 80s.
In the cooperative's democratic business model, each farmer-member has a voice in pay price, growth, profit sharing, best practices, and other cooperative fundamentals. Because the co-op is not beholden to shareholders or outside investors, the business can prioritize paying farmers a stable price each month, as well as providing other valuable shared services, such as world-class veterinary care, and soil and pasture improvement programs.
Organic Valley is made up of farmers such asAmy RaboineofReedsburg, Wisconsin. Amy took over her family's dairy after her father died following a long journey with stomach cancer. Amy finished school and chose to become a dairy farmer. Today, Amy raises her family and her herd inspired by nature and her dad's legacy.
WhenChandler and Aziza BensonofLansing, New York, decided to start a family, Chandler left his high-powered financial services job in bustlingChicagoand Aziza left the National Guard for a slower paced quality of life. There, the Bensons took over Chandler's parents' organic dairy, which was too big for the older Bensons but just right for the next generation and their three sets of twins.
Other Organic Valley farm facts include:
- Organic Valley farmer-members work in 36 states across the country, and farming styles range from cutting-edge dairies with solar panels and biodiesel implements to simple horse-drawn-plow farms.
- In 2016, Organic Valley purchased a creamery inMcMinnville, Oregon. Starting in 2017, the new Organic Valley plant will process milk from 27 Organic Valley farm families in the Pacific Northwest.
- Organic Valley places special emphasis on young farmers under the age of 35, a group they call Generation Organic. According to the USDA Agricultural Census, the average age of farmers across the country is 58.
- 85 percent of Organic Valley dairy farms have fewer than 100 cows. The average herd size is 72 cows.
The cooperative's growth is apparent at its headquarters inLa Farge, Wisconsin, as well. In 2016, Organic Valley hired 110 new employees for a total of 903 staff, maintaining Organic Valley's role as the largest employer inVernon County, Wisconsin. In 2015, Organic Valley was named one ofOutsidemagazine's "100 Best Places to Work in theUSA."
"Ourcooperative success means we can provide a lifeline to more than 2,000 family farms and meaningfulemployment to over 900 staff members," concluded Siemon. "We are past and present leaders in the organic and cooperative movementsand will continue to lead into the future, no matter what short-term challenges we face‚Äîbecause we face them together."