Organic Valley Dairy Cooperative: Independent And Farmer-Owned

ORGANIC VALLEY is one of America’s leading national organic brands and is the nation’s largest independent and farmer-owned organic dairy cooperative. Organized in 1988, Organic Valley boasts 689 certified organic farmer/owners in 20 states. It owes its success to two pivotal guiding principles. The first is staying independent and true to its mission: keeping small and mid-sized farmers farming. Of equal importance is its commitment to forming long-term partnerships with the 53 quality manufacturing facilities that co-pack its products.

In the last year alone, the cooperative achieved record success both in sales (up from $156 million in 2003 to $204 million) and in farmer recruitment (133 new farmers).

We increased number of acres and cows brought into the organic system (up to more than 113,000 acres and 26,000 cows).The Organic Valley brand is the top-selling organic milk in both mainstream supermarkets and natural foods outlets along the entire Eastern seaboard.

In 2001 when our goal was established to consolidate kosher oversight among our plants and packaging, we sought out another quality partner capable of meeting the unique needs of our dynamic cooperative. The Orthodox Union swiftly satisfied that need and has proved to be a solid partner making us proud to display the OU logo on our products ever since. Our Rabbinic Coordinator is Rabbi Andrew Gordimer. His level of expertise, service, understanding and (occasionally) forgiveness is truly impressive.

ORGANIC AND KOSHER: A SOUND, WORKING PARTNERSHIP

In August of 2000, while in Long Island on a plant visit, I took the opportunity to visit the Orthodox Union headquarters in Manhattan. The visit that followed with Rabbis Safran, Elefant and their staff remains unsurpassed to this day for its education and hospitality! The rabbis and I had a long, fruitful discussion, educating each other about the challenges and similarities between organic and kosher compliance. Just as the Orthodox Union logo is the gold standard of kosher oversight, the USDA Organic Seal has quickly gained consumer confidence as the internationally recognized symbol of compliance to organic standards.

Organic standards are production guidelines which mandate such things as humane treatment of livestock along with water and soil conservation, while strictly prohibiting others such as the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides, genetically engineered technology, and irradiation of food for sterilization. As with kosher compliance, organic certification for farmers and processors involves scheduled and surprise inspections and audits to verify compliance.

In the end, we concurred that the two compliment each other well in terms of assuring customers that their food meets strict, inspection-verified quality standards —- a “shidduch” in the words of Rabbi Safran.

The organic food industry is growing at 20 percent per year as more and more consumers recognize the nutritional and social benefits of organic farming practices. Many of these consumers are the same careful shoppers that seek out kosher certification. For Organic Valley the decision to boast of kosher compliance on our certified organic labels has proved to be advantageous not only to our sales staff but more importantly to our loyal base of customers.

As stewards of the earth who use nature as their teacher, Organic Valley farmers produce more than 130 delicious organic products. Look for the Orthodox Union logo on Organic Valley milk, cream, half and half, soy drinks, butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and juice. Organic Valley products are sold in food cooperatives, natural foods stores and supermarkets throughout the country. For further information, contact Organic Valley at 1.888.444.MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop.