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Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg Launches a New Initiative to Save Small Organic Dairy Farmers in the Northeast

(Image courtesy of Rodale Institute)

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Over the past few months, our industry has been dealing with its latest crisis: 135 small organic dairy farmers in the Northeast have had their contracts terminated — 89 by Danone, 46 by Maple Hill Creamery. With very few options for survival, these family farms and their communities are facing financial peril if nothing is done to help them.

The only saving grace in this scenario is that we can come to their rescue — without having to rely on the government to intervene in time.

Spearheading this effort is the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, which was just launched by Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and long-time CEO of Stonyfield.

The goal of this first-of-its-kind partnership is to engage all stakeholders — consumers, retailers, cooperatives, processors, distributors, government agencies and institutions — from New York City to Maine, in order to solve the crisis of disappearing family farms.

In terms of a specific action item, consumers are being asked to sign a pledge, linked here, to purchase one-fourth of their weekly dairy purchases from 35 brands, listed here. These brands have committed to increase their purchases of Northeast organic family farmers’ milk, which will help save the 135 at-risk farms and create a more secure environment for the region’s organic family farms going forward.

“I know a lot of these farmers and their communities, and what has happened to them is a tragedy that goes against everything I have worked for since the 1970s,” said Gary Hirshberg, who is no longer a shareholder in Stonyfield. “These people are heroes, doing very labor-intensive work where nothing is easy. But they are promoting animal welfare and building soil health by sequestering carbon, something incredibly valuable in a time of climate change. We have until the end of 2022, and if these farmers don’t get new contracts, they will go under and areas of the country that can least afford it will take an estimated $160 million economic hit.”

Whereas many e-petitions that we are asked to sign often have little impact, that is absolutely not the case here.

The partnership will be appealing directly to buyers at retailers and institutions to carry more organic milk from the Northeast. So, the greater number of signatures — indicating consumers’ interest and commitment to purchase these products — the stronger our case will be.

Furthermore, the partnership is also inviting restaurants, cafeterias and any other outlet that sells dairy products to also become licensed as partners. Licensed partners who have signed affidavits to grow their organic purchases will be entitled to proudly display the partnership logo at the point of sale and also online to enable easy identification by consumers.

“Horizon (Danone) and Maple Hill dropped all of these farms for financial reasons, but they are not giving up any of their market share and will still be selling organic milk on the shelves in our state,” said Annie Watson, co-owner of Sheepscot Valley Farm in Maine, which is part of the Organic Valley network. “They are willing to cut ties with the people in this region but not their stomachs or wallets. That is the truth.”

One very hopeful aspect of this partnership is that each individual can have a meaningful impact.

“Everyone can do something, and this is a low lift,” noted Gary Hirshberg. “The simple act of pledging to purchase one-quarter of all weekly dairy items from the 35 participating brands will support the Northeast region for generations to come. Plus, if we are successful here, this could be a model for how we accelerate local organic in every region of the country.”

The Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership is an educational project affiliated with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, a 501(c)3 charitable non-profit organization, and it has assembled a board of directors and advisory board from many different parts of the organic dairy value chain.

Please forward this email to anyone you know who lives in New York City to Maine and they can sign the pledge here.

With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

New Organic Products

New Organic Products

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Kernza Fusilli from Patagonia Provisions

In its new organic Kernza fusilli, Patagonia Provisions is combining Kernza flour with semolina for a springy texture, and its uneven surface allows sauces to cling, saturating each forkful with flavor. Kernza is a revolutionary perennial grain, whose deep root system prevents erosion, nourishes the soil and draws down carbon.

Liquid Vegan Mozzarella Pizza Cheese from Miyoko's Creamery

With its first-of-its-kind liquid vegan mozzarella pizza cheese, Miyoko's Creamery opted not to create a traditional solid block of vegan cheese that is then shredded. Instead, it stripped out the solids and ingredients that hinder meltability. Gluten-free, soy-free and lactose-free.

Nut Butter Graham Cracker Sandwiches from Once Again

Made with a blend of sorghum flour, oat flour and cassava flour, the graham crackers from Once Again are filled with dry roasted blanched peanut butter or dry roasted sunflower seed butter. These on-the-go, single-serve snacks are the only sandwich cracker that is both certified organic and certified gluten-free. Available at retailers this March.
This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Definitely get your tickets for the Real Organic Symposium, taking place online January 30th and February 6th. Here is a trailer for the event.

* The new organic clothing collection from YesAnd x Ram Dass.

* Why Thrive Market is taking a brand-driven approach (AdAge paywall) amid the online grocery surge.

* Thanks to Lifeway Kefir, there is now a super-cool way to practice yoga.

* Rodale Institute has just launched “Being a Regenerative Consumer,” a free online course for anyone interested in learning the basics about farming, food and the future of our health.

* Colorado-based Scratch Kitchen has become the first carbon neutral, on-demand food platform.

* What if you could read a fashion label like a food label?

* One Step Closer’s J.E.D.I Collaborative needs your help with its 2022 Diversity Survey.

* Prince Charles is opening a school for farmers.

* A former NFL lineman, who earned $40 million in his pro career, is now making and serving healthy meals at a small Catholic school in Michigan.

* New York’s first NFT restaurant is coming soon.

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