GUEST BLOG POST By Bonnie Hudspeth, Neighboring Food Co-op Association
Dairy farmer John Haynes, one of eight siblings, is the only sibling who stayed on the farm with his father. John claims that he has spent “half of his lifetime” clearing their pasture because his father was so committed to pasture grazing. John hasn’t plowed his fields in 30 years, and uses rotational grazing to keep his fields healthy, adding in fertilizer from his cows. Haynes Dairy is one of the 170 member farms of the Organic Valley co-op in New England that supply milk and dairy products to food co-ops across the region.
New England Farmers Union affiliate member the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) worked with Organic Valley staff to organize the third Organic Valley Farm Tour for NFCA member food co-ops. This tour offered 30 food co-op staff from 14 food co-ops across New England to learn more about organic dairy farming, build relationships with farmer members and food co-ops in the region, and enjoy a great day on the farm. Emma Sabella, representing New England Farmers Union, attended the event.
John and Beth Haynes have owned Haynes Dairy since 1991, when they purchased their 130-acre farm from John’s parents. On the tour, John described his milking process for their 63 cows, and explained how much he appreciates Organic Valley’s “win-win” of paying premiums for healthy milk. To keep his herd healthy, he focuses on preventative health, giving them calcium, probiotics, and vitamins. He also takes pride in having a happy herd of cows. “When we milk cows for the first couple times, we have two people on the job: one to milk them, and one to rub their backs and help them feel comfortable and relaxed.” John said being a farmer-owner of Organic Valley allows him to work on having healthy, happy cows instead of being forced to push his herd for high production.
The cows on Haynes Farm are quite the characters: they have a “pecking order” with leaders; certain cows, such as a brown cow named Ember, are natural leaders of the herd. They also know their milking stalls and will nudge other cows away from their stalls when they head into the milking parlor. As John opens the fence to a fresh section of pasture, the cows rush to graze on the tall, lush mix of native grasses and clover.
“Since its start, Organic Valley has valued the support of food co-ops who have been essential partners to our co-operative’s success,” said Regina Beidler, Organic Valley Member Farmer who helped welcome food co-op reps on the tour. “As farmers owners, we were delighted to have the chance to visit with staff from Neighboring Food Co-ops and to share what makes organic farming and organic food such a positive choice for the consumers we all serve.”
Check out these photos of the NFCA Organic Valley Farm Tour at Haynes Farm: http://s.coop/nfcaovfarmtour2015
The tour of Haynes Farm was organized by Organic Valley in collaboration with the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a network of more than 30 food co-ops and start-up co-op initiatives, as part of their work of creating a thriving regional economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and collaboration among co-ops.