This post is sponsored in partnership with Stonyfield Organic. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I’m sharing more about my visit to organic dairy farms in Vermont and organic farming – I hope you find it interesting and learn something new!
It’s been hard for me to put into words all of my thoughts and feelings regarding my recent Stonyfield Farm Tour. A group of nine bloggers, including myself, visited two Stonyfield Organic dairy farms and I honestly didn’t know I would leave feeling so… changed.
Up until this point, part of me still viewed “organic” as just another food marketing scheme. I did already have a general understanding of what organic was and how food became classified as organic, but I don’t think I truly understood the value and importance of organic farming.
And then we were on the first farm, right in the middle of the cows grazing the pasture. With the farmer owner and their two kids romping around.
We experienced firsthand the love and care the farmers have for their cows. Yes, they have tags on their ears with numbers, but they also have names. Names the farmers actually call them by.
ACTUALLY, they even have nicknames.
Like when you nickname your pets and they’ve got five different names you’re calling them within the hour, depending on how well they’re behaving. It’s basically like that.
In case you’re needing a little more information on what organic really is, let’s talk about it.
What is Organic?
“Organic” is classified and regulated by the USDA. There are strict requirements for a product to be labeled as organic. When you choose to buy (eat) organic, you are ensuring your food does NOT contain:
- toxic pesticides and chemicals
- genetically modified organisms (GMO’s)
- growth hormones
- artificial colors or flavors
- sewage sludge or irradiation
There are also animal welfare requirements. In contrast to large scale dairy operations, organic cows are required by federal regulation to be out on the pasture for 120 days per year, with 50% of their diet coming from grazing the pasture. They must also have free access to clean, temperate shade and shelter.
We were lucky enough to have gorgeous weather and be right in the middle of the cows grazing, standing amongst the farmers themselves and members of the Stonyfield team, including co-counder Gary Hirschberg (pictured below).
Why Does Organic Farming Matter?
So you may be wondering… Does organic really matter?
Yes, indeed it does. But for a variety of reasons you may have not considered. Organic farming is not just about the food… Organic farming is about the land, the future of our planet, the animals, and the people, including the farmers themselves.
- Organic farmers focus on a systems-based approach working WITH nature, not against it, which increases biodiversity and future farm health, while also decreasing the environmental impact. More on the carbon footprint below!
- Organic cows fertilize their own fields rotating through the pastures and maintain a healthier body weight, along with hoof and joint health.
- Healthy, happy cows means improved milk quality (and taste for the consumer!).
- Organic dairy farmers are able to support themselves doing what they love, because organic milk prices are higher and more stable than conventional milk prices.
Research shows that organic farmers are 35 percent more profitable than the average farm—and a lot more likely to stay in agriculture as a result.
What about non-organic dairy farms? Not all non-organic dairy farms operate the way large scale non-organic farms do. There are still non-organic dairy farms out there using best practices for the animals and the environment. My suggestion to you is do your brand research and make your decisions based on brand transparency.
Our Stonyfield Farm Tour
During the Stonyfield Farm Tour, we were able to visit two organic dairy farms – one farm being certified organic from day one, and the other farm that has since been converted from a conventional dairy farm to an organic dairy farm.
Wonder Why Farm
Our first visit was to the Wonder Why Farm where we were greeted by Jen and her two kids, Sam and Nora. Jen and her husband Morgan moved off of his father’s farm in 2002, to their current location in 2004.
In 2015, they built the barn with the robotic milking system. They also started supplying Stonyfield in 2015.
Side note: Jen is the daughter of Myles from Molly Brook, the next farm we visited. So whereas Jen and her husband started their organic dairy farm at the current location in 2004, Molly Brook farm only just transitioned to organic farming in 2015.
During this farm visit, they took us through the robotic milking system, walked along the pastures with us, and shared their love of the farm.
If you want to see some video footage, be sure to head to my Instagram story highlights section under “STONYFIELD TOUR.”
They explained how the cows rotate through the pastures which helps fertilize the land. We also learned how important organic farming is in reducing the carbon footprint.
The presence of carbon in soil is necessary, but years of conventional farming practices have depleted carbon soil levels in US farmlands. With organic farming methods and a process called “soil sequestration”, CO2 is removed from the air and put back into the earth – creating healthy soil for the pasture and for the cows.
I find this so interesting! Who’s with me?
Molly Brook Farm
Our next visit was to Molly Brook Farm, a seventh generation dairy farm owned by Myles Goodrich (seventh generation) and his wife Rhonda. Back in 2015, they made the decision to transition the herd and land to organic. Stonyfield played a very large role in the transition, investing in Molly Brook Farm and helping them with the conversion.
Partnering with Stonyfield allows Molly Brook Farm to make a fair living, being able to rely on stable milk prices.
If you’re ever in Vermont, Molly Brook farm gladly welcomes visitors! It’s truly an awesome experience hearing from Myles and Rhonda firsthand.
What Makes Stonyfield Organic Different
I feel like I could go on and on about Stonyfield and how awesome they are – the people behind the scenes, employees, the farmers, the co-founder who we spent time with, the delicious yogurt products themselves… but here are a couple more notes I hope you find exciting.
Stonyfield is a Certified B Corp – This means they meet very high standards of verified social and environmental performance. They’re not just focused on profits and making shareholders happy – they’re focused on creating good food while supporting the farmers, families, environment and our planet for generations to come.
“Certified B Corporations® are leaders of the global movement of People Using Business as a Force for Good™.”
StonyFIELDS Initiative – Stonyfield Organic has launched a new program to help convert playing fields and parks to organic and keep them free of harmful pesticides.
I personally find this so amazing and inspiring!
But why does this matter? Think about how many children are playing in fields and parks across the country… How are most of those parks managed? With pesticides and harmful chemicals. Children are the most vulnerable to pesticides, and regular exposure to them can greatly impact their health.
So with the StonyFIELDS Initiative, they are helping communities and families all across America take steps to manage fields and even our own backyards so all can #playfree.
How to Start Making Small Changes that can Make a BIG Impact
Now, I am not going to pretend (or even try to pretend) that I am going 100% organic. I am not even sure that is possible. It’s also not very realistic, for myself and many others. But after attending the Stonyfield Farm Tour I am realizing now more than ever why it is important to choose organic products when you can.
And in true millennial fashion, I like to support my favorite companies that are making a positive impact. So if that means paying a little more for higher quality products for brands that are supporting their employees, animals and the planet… I’m going to show that support by putting those products in my grocery cart and onto the conveyor belt.
I get that price is totally a factor, I really do. But even a small change in demand for organic can help bring the cost down.
In order to make a change, we really have to “Be the Change.” We cannot think in a selfish way. The decisions we make, the habits we form, impact our future families and generations to come.
I encourage you to find ways to make small changes and find better habits. It is not about all or nothing, just finding a way to do your part. 🙂
Be sure to check out my recipe for Yogurt Blueberry Bundt Cake featuring Stonyfield HERE.
As noted previously, Stonyfield has sponsored this post but all thoughts and opinions are my own. I believe I speak for everyone when I say the group of us attending left feeling very inspired and utterly grateful (pun intended) to have experienced such an amazing farm tour.
Any questions surrounding organic farming and/or organic dairy practices?
Please leave a comment or feel free to email me ashley(at)fitmittenkitchen(dot)com and we can chat!