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Organic Dairy Farm Ships First Milk Supply To be used in Organic Valley Milk and Stonyfield Yogurt

By Beth Potier,, Media Relations
January 17, 2007

© Robert Eddy, UNH's organic dairy research farm sent its first organic milk into the marketplace yesterday via Organic Valley farmer's cooperative. From left: Regina Beidler, Organic Valley dairy farmer from Randolph Center, Vt.; Kevin Brussell, UNH organic research project director; Tom Kelly, director of UNH Office of Sustainability; Charles Schwab, professor of animal and nutritional sciences at UNH; and John Cleary, Organic Valley's New England regional pool coordinator.

Organic Valley, America’s oldest and largest organic farmers cooperative and one of the nation’s leading organic brands, today welcomed the UNH organic dairy research farm into its cooperative as a milk supplier and full voting member.

“The partnership between UNH and Organic Valley will help further organic education in the region and continue to build the Northeast regional organic dairy program developed by Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm over the last decade,” said John Cleary, Organic Valley’s New England Regional Pool Coordinator.

The UNH organic dairy will serve as both an applied research center for integrated organic production and management and an education center for organic dairy farmers, farmers undergoing or considering transition to organic and students of sustainable agriculture. UNH is the first land-grant university in the nation to launch an organic research dairy farm.

Joining Cleary to welcome the first milk truck was Tom Kelly, UNH Office of Sustainability director, who said, “This is a great day for UNH, Organic Valley and the many hard-working people, companies and organizations who are building the sustainable food system that is vital to our future. A critical step in the organic dairy project was a meeting that we held at UNH three years ago to assess the state of organic dairy in the region and the role of the land grant university. An organic dairy farmer from Maine volunteered to give a presentation and answer questions. His contribution was significant to the day's deliberations and it turns out that he was a member of the Organic Valley cooperative. We have come full circle in three years with UNH joining him and hundreds of others in the Organic Valley cooperative.”

Charles Schwab, professor of animal and nutritional sciences and a leader in launching the organic dairy research farm, said, “This entire effort is about preservation of small family farms. Given the continued growth in demand for organic foods and the lack of scientific support behind organic food production the land grant universities have such an important role to play. When added to the ever-increasing health issues, such as obesity and diabetes facing our people and the need to help farmers stay in business and provide high quality foods, I can't imagine a more important area of research focus for a land-grant university than what we have started. In my more than 30 years at UNH this is by far the most important initiative that I have been involved in.”

Also on hand was Gary Hirshberg, president and CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm, the world’s leading organic yogurt maker.

“We are privileged to be the UNH Organic Dairy Farm’s first ‘customer,’ and the fact that the milk comes from our home state makes this event even more special,” says Hirshberg, a New Hampshire native. “ Through our partnership with Organic Valley, we have provided transition funds to support farmers converting to organic, worked with OV and other industry leaders to support and promote organic agriculture, and rely on fresh, wholesome organic milk from Organic Valley farms to make our delicious yogurts and smoothies.”

“The New Hampshire Organic Dairy Research Farm will help develop future generations of organic farmers and revitalize America’s rural landscape,” said George Siemon, Organic Valley CEO and one of the cooperative’s founding farmers. "We are proud to join with the University of New Hampshire and Stonyfield to be a part of a new agricultural renaissance.”

The first shipment of milk will go from UNH to Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry where it will be made into yogurt and smoothies. Organic Valley will pick up milk every other day from UNH. On days when it does not go to Stonyfield Farm, the milk will go to Organic Valley’s processing partner in Connecticut, Guida Dairy, where it will be made into Organic Valley “New England Pastures” brand organic milk.

The Cooperative Advantage

One of the advantages of the co-op model selected by UNH is that it puts farmers in the driver’s seat. Farmers make up the board of directors, as well as serve on peer-elected executive committees who give guidance to the board and management.

“The Organic Valley cooperative offers true local representation. The voice of every farmer is clearly heard in all co-op decisions and each farmer has an equal vote,” said Regina Beidler, Organic Valley dairy farmer from Randolph Center, Vermont, and the co-op’s Northeast Farmer Ambassador Coordinator. “We work to match local production with local markets as much as possible, and utilize regional processors, keeping money in the local economy. Our milk cartons tell the story of our local farmers.”

Organic Valley’s dedication to family farms has brought its members a stable farmer pay price that has gone steadily up. Said Nick Meyer, an Organic Valley farmer from Hardwick, Vermont, “Providing farmers with a stable and sustainable pay price has proven to be a lifeline for small family farms all over the region.”

The Organic Valley Cooperative: Independent and Farmer-Owned

Organic Valley is the top selling organic milk brand in the natural foods and mainstream channels in the Northeast. Its 922 organic farmers in 28 states and one Canadian province include 99 farmers in New England (77-Vermont; 20-Maine; 2-NH; and 1-Massachusetts, starting in the spring). The cooperative did a record $335 million in 2006.

Organized in 1988, and focused on its founding mission of keeping small and mid-sized farmers farming, the cooperative produces more than 200 organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce, and juice. Its sister brand, Organic Prairie, produces delicious organic pork, beef and poultry. Look for Organic Valley and Organic Prairie in leading supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. For more information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop.

About the UNH Organic Dairy Research Farm

UNH launched its organic dairy – the first in the nation at a land-grant university -- in December 2005 to provide education and science-based research for present and future organic dairy farmers while helping to secure the future of the Northeast’s agricultural heritage. Originally comprising 48 Jersey cows, the farm is located on 200 certified-organic acres in Lee.

The organic dairy is part of a renaissance of food and agriculture at UNH that touches many parts of the university: a food and society initiative that includes curriculum in organic food production; a local harvest program of UNH dining targeting regional procurement; a program that connects farmers and school food service managers to bring local products into public school cafeterias; and the new Center on a Food Secure Future that aims to advance the resurgence of the local and regional food economy. For more information, go to www.organicdairy.unh.edu or www.sustainableunh.unh.edu/fas/index.html.

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