Organic Month Vendor Spotlight: Organic Valley & Organic Prairie
What is your origin story? Who started the business and why?
It all started in 1988. We were a handful of Midwest family farmers fed up with the state of American agriculture. Family farms were going extinct. Our friends and neighbors were discarded by a bankrupt agricultural system, and we were told to “get big, or get out!” Industrial, chemical farming was the only existing option for survival; never mind its effects on our health, our animals, and our environment.
But we didn’t want to be industrial, chemical farmers, and we didn’t want to be at the mercy of corporate agriculture. We had to do something. So one farmer, George Siemon, put up posters calling us to band together, and we did. Family farmers filled the county courthouse (photo below) and we all agreed: there had to be a better way—a more sustainable way—to continue farming in a way that protects the land, animals, economy and people’s health. And that’s how our farmer-owned cooperative was born, with George as CEIEIO.
Before a year had passed, we started selling organic dairy, and people could tell the difference. Our local communities began choosing our premium, organic milk over other options, and we realized that we were certainly right about one thing—people wanted quality food.
Organic Prairie meats are produced by our independent cooperative of organic family farms. We are pioneers of the organic meat industry. We began producing our delicious meats—without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides—back in 1996. We insisted on third-party organic meat certification long before federal organic standards were established. We were the first in the industry to ban animal by-products from our cattle’s diet, and we played a vital role in shaping federal organic meat certification standards—the strictest in the industry.
What makes your products unique? Why should someone buy them?
When you spend your milk money on Organic Valley, we give you fresh food you can trust. It all comes from the family farms of our cooperative. With your support, we make real changes in the world one small step—and farm—at a time.
At Organic Valley, we like to keep things honest and simple. Like dairy produced with no added hormones, antibiotics or toxic pesticides. Produce grown the organic way, with none of the toxins or synthetic fertilizers. And cheese made by farmers and artisans who care about the environment, the animals and you—our customers.
Organic Prairie farmers are committed to providing your family with the healthiest, most wholesome meat, raised humanely in accordance with organic principles and practices—respecting the dignity and interdependence of human, animal, plant, soil and global life. We know that meat produced organically is the safest, best choice for our families, and we’re proud to make it available for yours to enjoy!
Why is organic better?
- Organic farmers use sustainable methods of pest-control. Non-organic farms use toxic pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals are really harmful to wildlife and human health, contaminating our food, air, and water, and accumulating in our cells. Organic farming practices, however, strictly forbids the use of these chemicals—making bees happier and food more nutritious.
- Research shows that organic foods are higher in antioxidants and other nutrients, like omega-3 and CLA essential fatty acids. And organic crops have been shown to contain significantly less concentrations of cadmium—a toxic metal on par with lead and mercury. Organic food really is better for you. And it tastes better too.
- Synthetic hormones and antibiotics are frequently given to non-organic farm animals to change their reproductive cycles and speed up their growth. We believe cows are healthiest and happiest when they’re allowed to live without being pumped full of chemicals—it helps them produce the highest quality milk we pride ourselves on.
- When non-organic farmers feed their animals antibiotics to keep them from getting sick, they kill many of the pathogens—but not all of them. The germs that survive go on to reproduce, leading to antibiotic-resistant infections that pose a real threat to animals and people alike. Instead of relying on antibiotics, our organic farmers use natural holistic measures to promote and maintain animal health—keeping everyone healthier in the process.
- Genetically engineered crops are a relatively recent invention with potentially harmful impacts on the ecosystem and on human and animal health. We still don’t know a lot about them and organic standards forbid the use of genetically engineered seeds or animals—including clones.
What else would you like us to know?
- We’re The Un-Corporation Our farmers own the company. Not the other way around. (That’s why they’re on the packaging!)
- We’re a cooperative of more than 2,000 small family farms. Organic Valley isn’t a giant corporation. We’re a cooperative of farmers across the country who share the same commitment to growing food the right way. We’re not driven by profits; we’re driven by principles. To make sure we stayed true to our mission, we made our company a cooperative. That means 2,000+ small family farmers own the company, not a bunch of Wall Street suits. And our board is made up entirely of our farmers. One farm, one vote.
- We used to be a bunch of idealists. And we still are today. We believe in the idea that, if consumers demand high-quality organic food, grown the right way, we could all change the way we treat our land, our animals and our bodies.
- We’re proudly independent. And we’ll never sell. We’re a bunch of farmers. So, of course we take the long view. We never take short cuts for short-term profits. We’ve always done things our way. And we always will.