Q: Why is being certified organic important to you and your business?
A: We believe that a lot of conventional farming has become too far removed from nature. I love seeing the animals on pasture and I enjoy the challenge of producing crops without the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers.
Q: What are the most important principles or philosophies that guide your company?
A: We want everyone that works and lives on the farm to enjoy a healthy organic lifestyle. Not only do we produce organic milk, but we raise our own chickens, pigs, turkeys, and fruit for our family and workers. We are all extremely gentle and patient with the animals. As a result, the animals are like big pets and great to work with.
Q: What specific questions did you have when learning about organic certification?
A: We had many questions about animal health and organic crop production. For example, are we allowed to treat our animals with medication if they became really sick? I've learned that animal welfare is always a priority with the organic regulations. When a cow is really sick we are allowed to treat her with most medications as long as we observe the minimum 30 day withdrawal period. We've also learned that prevention is important and we've improved our vaccination program and other practices. We've been experimenting with cross-breeding which is producing some great hybrid vigor in our animals. I was worried about growing organic corn. I talked a lot with another organic farmer, Quentin, and he was very helpful in teaching me new tillage methods. We also learned that proper crop rotations are crucial for weed control. We're still learning and making mistakes, but we're getting better and growing some nice organic corn!
Q: If someone you know is thinking of certifying organic, what advice would you give?
A: One thing that's very daunting about organic cattle farming is that you require a large land-base for your animals. You need lots of pasture and you may not have neighbors who are selling certified organic forages. However, the transition period gives you lots of time to find more land to lease and to convert to organic. During the 3-year transition period we added over 200 acres of organic lease land (crops and pastures) into our operation and it's worked out great. I found that most land owners love the idea of leasing their land to an organic farmer. Also, ask lots of questions. Most organic farmers, including myself, are happy to answer questions and give advice.
Q: Why did you choose PACS as your organic certifying body?
A: I talked to several organic dairy farmers and they all had very positive experiences with PACS. PACS has staff that are knowledgeful with organic dairy farming and they are quick to respond to my questions when I need to make changes on the farm.