LAFARGE, Wis., Dec. 19 /PRNewswire/ — “Generation Organic,” a campaign to
save the family farmer from extinction by bringing new farmers into organic
agriculture, was announced today by Organic Valley Family of Farms, America’s
largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the country’s leading
national organic brands.
“Generation Organic is the ‘Endangered Species Protection Act’ for the
American family farmer. U.S. farmers have disappeared from the land at the
rate of 195 per day for 70 years. We have worked to protect the bald eagle and
the grizzly bear. Now it’s time to save the family farmer. The health of our
food, our environment and our future generations is at stake,” said Travis
Forgues, 32, the Organic Valley dairy farmer from Alburg, Vermont whose
concern for the future of family farming gave rise to Generation Organic, or
Forgues noted that the average age of the remaining family farmers is
getting older, even in the organic community where the percentage of younger
farmers is high. The majority of U.S. farmers today are 55 years and older.
Said Forgues, “Gen-O will work to reverse the trend and keep family farmers on
Forgues announced a five point “Gen-O Agenda” for developing the next
generation of organic farmers:
1. Save the family farmer, an endangered species — Five million family
farmers have been lost since 1935 and most of those remaining are 55
years or older. Gen-O will bring new farmers into the fold and plant
the seed for future generations of organic farmers.
2. Keep diversity in agriculture — Do we want all our food from factory
farms? Gen-O will educate about the risks of allowing our food to be
sourced from chemically-intensive factory farms where profit is the
goal, and work to promote a sustainable and diverse organic
agriculture that works in harmony with nature to produce healthy food.
3. Preserve farmer wisdom and knowledge — Farming is a time-honored
craft whose technical and intuitive knowledge is passed down from
generation to generation. The Gen-O movement will not let this vital
treasure become extinct.
4. Unify rural and urban communities — Fostering the connection between
city and country dwellers will increase our appreciation for the
people who grow our food as well as the people who eat it. Gen-O will
tell the story of America’s family farmers.
5. Offer hope for a safe and healthy future — By supporting farming
methods that work in harmony with nature, Generation Organic promises
to deliver food that is safe and healthy, protects the environment and
nurtures a sustainable way of life.
Forgues, who chose to become an organic farmer despite earning college
degrees in psychology and computer science, speaks on campuses and community
gatherings throughout the country to urge new farmers to enter the field:
“Nothing is more satisfying than the organic farmer’s life work. We produce
safe, healthy food, protect the environment, enjoy a rich family and community
life, and protect time-honored knowledge that is vital to the survival of our
species: how to grow the food we eat.”
Organic Valley: Farming for Future Generations
Organic Valley has spearheaded a full program of Gen-O initiatives to
nurture the next generation of organic farmers and will be adding more in the
year to come. Offerings include a nationwide program of “barn meetings” and
organic educational workshops, a farmers speakers bureau, web resources,
educational literature, a farmers hotline, financial and technical support for
farmers transitioning to organic, partnerships with university-based farmer
training programs, organic school curriculum, a farmer ambassador program to
heighten public awareness of organic farmers and, starting in 2006, an organic
farmer mentoring and internship program.
“Organic Valley’s job is to help create balance between skyrocketing
consumer demand for organic products and the number of farmers available to
produce them,” said George Siemon, CEO and a founding farmer of the co-op.
“Fortunately, the resiliency of the Organic Valley cooperative business model
enables us to provide our farmers with a stable, sustainable pay price and
invest in future farmer education and support.”
Siemon noted the following highlights of the cooperative’s success in
— Sales rose 17% to $245 million in 2005 and will climb to $285 million
— The number of farmers in the co-op doubled over the last three years
from 361 farmers in 15 states in 2002 to 723 farmers in 22 states in
— The estimated average national organic price paid by the co-op to its
farmers ($21.80 per hundredweight) was more than 40 percent higher
than its conventional counterpart ($15.35 per hundredweight).
For further information about Gen-O and the Organic Valley cooperative,
prospective farmers are invited to call the Organic Valley Farmer Hotline at
1-888-809-9297, or visit the Organic Valley Farmers website at
Organic Valley Family of Farms is America’s largest cooperative of organic
farmers and is one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988,
it represents 723 farmers in 22 states and realized a record $245 million in
2005 sales. Focused on its founding mission of keeping small and mid-sized
farmers farming, Organic Valley produces 200 organic foods, including organic
milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce, juice and meats
which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives
nationwide. For more information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit