Organic Valley recently recognized three young farmers working in the organic industry that have demonstrated their commitment to organic farming, and preserving the family farm and rural communities through leadership, stewardship and innovation. Organic Valley says they developed the the Gen-O Award to recognize young producers that embody these qualities.
In a written statement the cooperatives said “As we look to the future of farming, we feel it is vitally important to acknowledge the farmers of tomorrow who will ensure that delicious, local, and sustainable organic food choices exist for generations to come. The Gen-O Award goal is to identify and foster the development within our co-op of the next generation of leaders of the organic movement.”
The the 2014 winners:
- Melissa Collman of Clackamas County, Oregon
- Sarah Hardy of Herkimer County, New York
- Adam Lange of Grant County, Wisconsin
Melissa Collman is a 4th generation farmer on her family’s dairy in Oregon. Melissa and her husband, Andy, work in partnership with Melissa’s father and mother, Organic Valley farmer-owners Gary and Connie Moore.
Before Melissa’s dad transitioned the farm to organic in 2004, she was not optimistic about a future in farming. “I told Andy when we first got engaged that I didn’t care what else we did, I did not want him to become a farmer. With conventional milk prices the way they were, it wouldn’t be a matter of if we were going to go under, only a matter of when. It was not a sustainable life. But Andy was determined to be a farmer, so we had to make a change.”
The first year was tough, but after about two years, she could see they were pulling out of the hole. “I knew for sure this is what I wanted for our family. We watched the cows get stronger. While we always pastured our cows, after we transitioned, we learned how to graze them more effectively so that most of their diet comes from forages.”
Melissa and Andy enjoy hosting farm tours for local and inner city schools, and Melissa goes to classrooms to educate kids about dairy farming. They also “lease” (for free) some of their animals to 4-H kids so they can learn how to care for them and show them at the county fair.
Meanwhile, Melissa and Andy and her parents raise the 5th generation of humans on Cloud Cap Dairy. “The kids love to help Grandpa and Dad and me,” Melissa says. “My oldest daughter has ridden with her dad on the tractor and fallen asleep there, just like I did when I was a kid. This is a sustainable life, and I’m so glad we’re here to live it.”
To honor their hard work in the name of organic farming, sustainability and as representatives of the young farmer community, the Collman’s were awarded Organic Valley’s 2014 Generation Organic Award.
Sarah Hardy did not grow up on farm per se, however she tried her best to make her parents’ 25 acres in western New York State into one. She joined her local 4-H club at age 8 and learned how to raise, market and show animals. Pretty soon there was a flock of sheep at home, not to mention pigs, horses and beef cows.
Sarah was not familiar with organic farming until she met her husband, Aaron Hardy, who is the son of longtime Organic Valley farmer-owners Susan and Dave Hardy.
“Once you see the Hardys’ farm, it can really convert you. It’s a beautiful farm, and the animals are so well taken care of. They’re raised on pasture and rotationally grazed to fresh grass after every milking. The cows are healthy, and the calves are well cared for from birth. We have 10-year-old cows, which you’d never find on a conventional farm. I’ve really come to love being on an organic farm. It’s just so much more comfortable and natural.”
Aaron is in charge of the day-to-day operation of the farm, and Sarah works as a teacher’s aide during the school year. In summer, she works full time on the farm and is in charge of calf care.
“I want to be a full-time farmer. That’s what I grew up wanting and what I went to school for. Our goal is to be able to farm together and raise our family on the farm.”
To honor her hard work in the name of organic farming, sustainability and as a representative of the young farmer community, Sarah was awarded Organic Valley’s 2014 Generation Organic Award.
Organic farming isn’t just something Adam Lange does; it’s a philosophy he lives by: respect all living things, support each other, and work toward a better future.
In 1994, Adam was only three when his father, Rich Lange, transitioned their farm to organic, so Adam has pretty much grown up farming organically.
Today the Lange family raises cattle, hogs and poultry for Organic Prairie and direct-market their meats to local and regional stores, farmers markets and restaurants.
Because Lange Farm Meats is a grass-based operation, all the animals have access to the outdoors and grass. Cattle are grazed and grass-finished on pastures consisting of grasses, alfalfa and clovers.
Presently Adam’s a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but farming is a huge part of his life. “I’m an organic farmer because of my dad, so of course I’m always learning from him, but I really enjoy going to organic farming conferences and meetings and learning new things. I think the most effective baseline organic farming method we practice is grazing and keeping our animals outside as much as possible. Managing the overall well-being of our animals is critical. It’s a lot of work, but I feel it’s worth it to provide a healthier product. It’s worth the difference in price to me because it really tastes better. I mean, we’re more than willing to spend $1.80 on a can of pop that does nothing good for us. Why wouldn’t we be willing to pay a little more for real food?”
To honor his hard work in the name of organic farming, sustainability and as a representative of the young farmer community, Adam was awarded Organic Valley’s 2014 Generation Organic Award.