Organic Valley, the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and a leading organic brand, recently announced their 2011 year-end results, which include bringing on 212 new farmers for 12 percent member growth across the country.
The LaFarge-based co-operative also increased sales from $620 million to $715 million for 15.3 percent growth, while donating more than $2.2 million to nonprofit organizations dedicated to advancing organic food and farming. Recipients of the donations ranged from community food banks to farmer initiatives to advocacy for mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.
“We measure our success against our mission,” said George Siemon, CEO and founding farmer of Organic Valley. “For us, that means keeping farmers on the land, being responsible stewards of the environment and supporting rural communities.”
In terms of other tangible metrics for success, Organic Valley achieved sustainability and job creation goals in 2011. The cooperative installed wind turbines to offset 100 percent of its distribution center’s current electricity use. Organic Valley also supported on-farm renewable energy projects and other sustainability initiatives. The cooperative also underwent a state-of-the-art green-designed headquarters expansion in La Farge. With the expansion it is expected 84 new jobs will be added this year. In 2011 alone, the farmer-owned cooperative brought 79 new jobs to Vernon County, bringing total number of employees up to 620.
The past year also saw the launch of the latest of Organic Valley’s regional milks, New York Fresh, produced, bottled, distributed and sold right in the Empire State. Like its regional counterparts, New York Fresh milk ensures fewer miles from farm to table and supports local economies, including the 113 New York farm families that produce it.
Organic Valley also launched the first organic flavored half-and-half and soy creamers, providing an organic, fair-trade alternative to complement beverages and recipes.
The year was not without its hardships, as feed and other input costs skyrocketed, which together with lost acreage and carryover issues from the recession and oversupply era caused a shortage in organic milk supply. As such, Organic Valley will increase its farmer-owner pay price by $2 per hundred pounds of milk (“hundredweight,” or “cwt”) beginning in March 2012.
“It’s important as we start 2012 to support our farmers during these difficult supply times by increasing our farmer pay price,” continued Siemon. “We recognize the challenge of high feed costs and it is a major issue.”
Including the March 2012 pay price increase, Organic Valley farmer-owners will earn an average national pay price of $30/cwt, which exceeds the average pay price for a conventional farmer by approximately $10. As a farmer-owned cooperative, Organic Valley has historically adjusted its pay price to meet the needs of and assure a fair livelihood for its members.