Handing Down the Farm

by Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator 

Ashley, Jarrett and baby Tyler.

Ashley, Jarrett and baby Kayleigh Tyler.


Jarrett Tyler grew up on Tyler Farms, the fifth generation on this land in Galivants Ferry, South Carolina. He and his twin sister, Whitley, loved being immersed in the family farm and life in this small community on the Pee Dee River just inland from Myrtle Beach. Jarrett spent summers working with his dad, Greg Tyler, in the fields. “What do I love best about farming?” Jarrett considers. “I enjoy being outdoors, the satisfaction of watching something grow, working as a family, and accomplishing something important.”


Handing down the farm from one generation to the next seems as American as apple pie. The younger generation has the advantage of learning how to farm seemingly by osmosis through years growing up on the farm and learning alongside the wise elders. There is a deep tie to and love for land which has been in the family for generations.

The average age of farmers nationally is 58.3 years old and fewer than 30 percent of farmers have identified a successor.


Current data, however, paints a different picture. In the mid-twentieth century 1 out of 3 Americans grew up on a farm. In 2016 less than 2% of the population farmed for a living. The Carolinas have lost almost a million and a half acres of farmland since mid-1990. The average age of farmers nationally is 58.3 years old and fewer than 30 percent of farmers have identified a successor.


Tyler Farms almost became one of those statistics. Greg and Jarrett’s story highlights some of the barriers which must be overcome and how CFSA is working to ensure that farmers have the training, resources and support they need to farm in new markets.


Give to CFSA to help us grow the next generation of organic farmers!



After high school Jarrett tried some off-farm work. His dad, Greg, quit farming tobacco in 2004 because he could no longer make a living at it. Tyler Farms seemed destined to join the statistics of failed family farms and lost farmland in the Carolinas. Jarrett, however, missed farming and convinced his dad to try again together. “I knew where my heart was and I just had to get Dad back into farming,” says Jarrett.



Jarrett with a load of transplants ready to go in the field. 


They grew peanuts in 2012, tobacco and peanuts in 2013, and then began growing organic tobacco for Santa Fe Natural Tobacco in 2015. To grow tobacco organically, a farmer has to rotate the tobacco crop, which takes a heavy toll on the land, with another organic crop.


Jarrett knew that the market for organic vegetables is expanding and he wanted to try to grow them. His vegetable business, Sandy Hill Organics, is the only USDA certified organic vegetable producer in the county. “We have generations of conventional farming friends in the area,” Greg says, “and they all think we are crazy.”


Organic broccoli fields at Tyler Farm.

Organic broccoli fields at Tyler Farm.


Jarrett and Greg began growing organic broccoli and cabbage. They quickly learned that in order to sell into wholesale markets, they needed to become certified in Good Agriculture Practices (GAP)/Good Handling Practice (GHP). GAP/GHP certification are buyer-driven, voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food hazards, positioning small growers to compete with mainstream supply chains. Greg heard about a workshop being offered by CFSA at Greenbrier Farm in Greenville, SC, in November 2016.


“The GAP workshop and then the individualized on-farm consulting from CFSA was a lifesaver!” said Greg. Greg and Jarrett worked to thoroughly review and standardize all of their food handling practices and were successfully GAP certified in December 2016. They agree that, “Vegetable handling is so much more complicated than tobacco. We could not have passed our audit without this professional help from CFSA.”




Growing vegetables is one part of the business of farming, but finding good markets is another important piece. CFSA introduced Greg and Jarrett to GrowFood Carolina, a regional food hub which aggregates, markets and distributes source-identified food from local farmers to wholesale, retail and institutional markets. GrowFood provides local farmers the sales, marketing, logistics, warehousing and distribution functions they need that have previously been available only to large-scale industrial farms. CFSA helped the Coastal Conservation League launch GrowFood in 2011 and since its opening GrowFood has returned over $3 million to South Carolina farmers.


Jarrett’s farming business, Sandy Hill Organics, grows on about 6 acres now and his goal is to grow more varieties of vegetables on 20-30 acres in coming years. He has ideas about accessing the Farmers Markets nearby in Myrtle Beach and possibly selling on-farm someday.  “It means a lot to me that my Dad feels comfortable turning the farm over to me,” says Jarrett. Greg echoes that, saying, “I always hoped Jarrett would be able to take over the farm and … carry on the tradition and care for the land.”


Jarrett’s wife, Ashley, had never farmed but now it is “all she wants to do” says Jarrett. “She helps with all the paperwork of the farm and hopefully, she can join the business full-time someday.”  Jarrett and Ashley are new parents with a four month old daughter, Kayleigh, and they look forward to giving her a farming childhood and life. “Ashley and I live on the farm, my sister lives next door to Daddy across the street, and other family members live nearby. It’s the life we love,” says Jarrett.


“Organic farming is not easy,” says Jarrett, “but we hope it will provide us with a living.” He circles back around and emphasizes again what he loves about farming, “I love watching things grow; it makes you feel good, like you’ve done something important. We’re feeding America.”

10 Things You Should Know about the Organic Checkoff

Submit your comment about organic checkoff by April 19, 2017.
If you know what you want to say, click here and you’ll be taken directly to instructions to submit your comment and CFSA’s suggested talking points. If not, check out this blog post.

Organic seal with veggies

by Rochelle Sparko, CFSA’s Policy Director

In May 2015, the Organic Trade Association submitted a proposal for an organic checkoff program to USDA. In January 2017, USDA requested comments about an organic checkoff proposal similar to the one submitted by OTA. We’ve got a deep dive into some of the provisions of USDA’s proposal.

Comments about the USDA’s proposed checkoff program are due on April 19, 2017. USDA will then review all the comments on the Proposed Rules and decide whether to go ahead with an Organic Research, Promotion and Information Order (organic checkoff). If the USDA decides to start an organic checkoff program, it will publish a Final Rule which will address the comments they have received and lay out the details of the organic checkoff. CFSA will alert our certified organic farmer members should this happen. A separate Final Rule will explain how and when a referendum will take place, and which farmers will be eligible to vote either for or against implementation of an organic checkoff program. When do we expect all of this to happen? Since the Final Rule for both the program and the referendum will have to go through all of the vetting by various government agencies, Implementation before 2019 is highly unlikely.


How will the proposed checkoff program work?

Q: Who will have to pay into the checkoff program?

Some certified organic producers and handlers, as well as some importers of certified organic products will have to pay. Others can opt to pay, which they might want to do so that they have a say in who sits on the Board, so that they themselves can run to serve on the Board, and so that they can vote on whether to have an organic checkoff program at all.

  • Mandated Assessments: Organically certified producers and handlers who have gross organic sales for the previous marketing year in excess of $250,000, plus importers (not necessarily organically certified) who import greater than $250,000 in transaction value of organic products for the previous marketing year. Gross organic sales means the total amount the person received for all organic products during the fiscal year without subtracting any cost or expenses.
  • Voluntary Assessments: Those organically certified producers and handlers plus importers of certified product who are not mandatorily assessed but choose to participate in the program.
  • Producers and handlers who are in an existing Federal checkoff program have the choice between becoming part of the organic checkoff and continuing to pay assessments to the conventional checkoff program. If the organic checkoff is implemented, there will be no exemptions from other checkoff programs for organic producers and handlers. This is the case regardless of the farmer’s gross income. In other words, if a certified organic farmer has gross income under $250,000, and is selling a product covered by a conventional checkoff program, that farmer must participate in either the conventional or organic checkoff program. Some examples of products covered by conventional checkoff programs include: cotton, eggs, beef, dairy, pork, watermelon, mushrooms, soybeans, Christmas trees, blueberries, peanuts and sorghum.


Q: How much will assessed participants have to pay?

Each certified organic producer or certified organic handler with gross organic sales greater than $250,000 during the previous calendar year shall pay one-tenth of one percent (0.001) of net organic sales to the organic checkoff program. Sales of exports are currently excluded in any calculation of net sales. The proposal doesn’t say anything about whether the value of exports is excluded from a calculation of gross organic sales.

Net organic sales means total gross sales in organic products minus (a) the cost of feed and agricultural inputs used in the production of certified products and (b) the cost of any non-organic agricultural ingredients used in the production of certified products.

Agricultural inputs means all substances or materials used in the production or handling of organic agricultural products (e.g. fertilizer, lime, soil conditioners, agricultural chemicals, beneficial insects, other approved materials for pest control, seed, plants, vines, trees, feed purchased for livestock, etc.).


Q: How much money will the checkoff program generate?

The USDA estimates that the assessments will total $25.3 million in the first year based on USDA census information, reports from importers, and their projection of net organic sales.


Q: How will the money collected be used?

Reimbursement to the USDA for costs involved in running the program. There is no limit on what this might cost. This is paid out first.

Next, staff and administrative costs for the Board and program will be deducted next before evaluating what funds are available for Programs, Plans or Projects. The program staff and administrative cost, plus whatever costs the Board has, can be no more than 15 percent of total assessment raised. Reimbursements to the USDA are not included in the 15 percent.

The remaining funds are used to Programs, Plans or Projects. The use of any of the funds has to be approved by USDA. Because the program is run through USDA, which prohibits disparaging or degrading other products, checkoff funds may not be used to claim that organic products are “better than” conventional or “more healthy than” conventional. The funds cannot be used to advocate before the National Organic Standards Board or for a particular position on any regulation or statute.

The Board (more about who is on the Board below) will determine how funds will be used, within certain parameters, so we don’t know exactly how the funds will be divided between research and promotion. Here’s what the proposal lays out:

  • No less than 25% will be used for research and at least 50% of that will be used for agricultural research.
  • 25% will be allocated to information with at least 50% of that allocated to producer information. This includes extension activities like disseminating research to FSA or producers.
  • 25% is allocated to promotion.
  • 25% is discretionary.

So what might this look like in terms of dollars?

Organic Checkoff Budget $million
USDA AMS Projection of total assessments raised 25.30
USDA administration cost (OTA’s projection)  (0.30)
Board and program administration at 15%  (3.80)
Available for Programs, Plans and Projects (PPP) 21.21
Research allocation (25% of total for PPP) 5.30
      Agriculture research (50%-100% of research allocation)    2.65-5.30
      Other research    0.0-2.65
Information allocation 5.30
      Information for producers (50% -100%of information allocation)    2.65-5.30
      Industry and consumer information    0.0-2.65
Promotion for expanding organic markets 5.30
Discretionary funds 5.30


Q: When are payments due?

All payments must be received by the organic checkoff program no later than March 31st for the previous calendar year in which the product was ‘produced, handled or imported.’


Q: How will USDA enforce checkoff?

Payment into the checkoff program will be enforced in accordance with the requirements laid out in The Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996. Penalties range from a court order to comply with the program to fines of $1000-$10,000 per violation. Because there is already a database of certified organic producers and handlers, it will be relatively simple for USDA to determine who hasn’t paid into checkoff. Late payment (90 days after the end of the year) of the assessment will result in a late payment fee and the collection of interest on the amount overdue.


Q: How much paperwork will I have to do?

It depends on whether you will be paying into organic checkoff, claiming that you are exempt from checkoff because of your gross income, or are paying into another checkoff program.

Just paying into organic checkoff:

Producers and handlers who either have to or choose to pay the assessment and whose crops/livestock aren’t covered by another checkoff program will calculate their net organic sales (remember this is gross sales less certain inputs) for the previous year ending on December 31st, multiply it by 0.001 and submit a check to the program by March 31st.

In addition to a check, producers and handlers have to submit a report that would include, but not be limited to, the entity’s name, address and telephone number, and the value of its net organic sales. They need to maintain books and records to document their gross income and the deductions used to determine net income and retain those records for at least two years beyond the applicable calendar year.

Eligible for a different checkoff program:

Producers or handlers who are part of a commodity with an existing conventional checkoff will have to apply annually for exemption from assessment by that program. Before the start of the calendar year, producers and handlers will fill out a form and submit it to the Secretary of Agriculture requesting an exemption from assessment by the conventional program to ensure that they would not have double deduction. These producers and handlers would have to prove that they paid into the organic checkoff the previous year. It appears that producers would need to request refunds if conventional checkoff deductions are taken when farmers receive payment, for example dairy, beef and lamb.

If the entity is part of a State promotion program rather than a Federal program, the USDA will “encourage” those programs to recognize the Federal program. Entities can apply for an offset of 25 percent of the payment to the federal program to compensate for monies paid to a State or Regional program if the State and Regional programs

Not mandatory assessed and choose not to be voluntarily assessed:

These producers and handlers will apply annually, prior to January 1st, for exemption by supplying proof that they had gross organic sales of under $250,000 in the previous year. They would submit to the program past shipment/sales data that would document their gross organic sales. They would need to maintain books and records that document the amount of gross sales, and retain those records for at least two years beyond the applicable calendar year. The Organic Research and Promotion Board (Board) would then issue a certificate of exemption for that calendar year.

Those producers and handlers that are part of a conventional checkoff program and choose not to pay into the organic checkoff will have to pay into their conventional program. The existing exemption for organic producers and handlers exempting them from the conventional programs would disappear.


Q: Who serves on the Organic Research and Promotion Board? What does the Board do?

The proposal includes a 17 member Board including 1 non-voting member and a quorum of 9 members. Board members are appointed by the Secretary of the USDA. The Board is made up of:

    • 7 either mandatorily or voluntary assessed producers, one of whom has to be from the following list of states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia;
    • 1 voluntarily assessed producer grossing under $250,000;
    • 5 mandatorily or voluntarily assessed handlers;
    • 2 mandatorily or voluntarily assessed product processors;
    • 1 mandatorily or voluntarily assessed importer; and
    • 1 public member at-large who is a non-voting member.

The first time a Board is appointed, nominations will be handled by the Department and the Organic Trade Association. The terms for service of the initial Board shall be staggered for two, three and four years. Board members will only be reimbursed for travel and other expenses but not for their time. After the first Board is appointed, future Board members will be selected following voting among those the Board member will represent. The top vote getters in each category will be submitted to the Secretary, who will select a nominee from among the two submitted names for each seat.

Members of the Board have a number of powers and duties. They are responsible for hiring and setting the salary of one or more people to implement the checkoff program; for advertising, holding and keeping minutes of Board meetings; to develop programs, plans and projects using the checkoff funds; investigate violations of the checkoff program, to recommend changes to the assessment rates, and more.


Q: Who gets to vote on whether there should be an organic checkoff program?

The first time there is a referendum, producers, handlers and importers who will have to pay into the checkoff program get one vote. Voluntarily assessed entities can vote if they sign an affidavit promising to pay into the program for the majority of years before the next referendum. Every domestic, certified organic entity in the NOP database will receive a ballot by mail.

Every seven years, there will be another vote to determine whether the majority of participants want to continue or disband the checkoff program. Voluntarily assessed entities have to sign an affidavit to participate in the majority of the next seven years in order to vote as well as showing that it paid into the program for a majority of years since the last referendum. Dual covered entities (those that could pay into either the organic checkoff or commodity-based checkoff program) must show they paid into the organic checkoff rather than the commodity-based checkoff for the majority of years since the last referendum. A new organic farm must demonstrate that it has paid into the organic checkoff for all years since it received its certification in order to vote.

Ballots are cast by mail, in person at the local FSA office, or in another way established by USDA.  The program will be implemented if a majority of those voting agreed to it.

Consumer’s Pocket-sized Guide to Meat, Dairy and Egg Labels


At CFSA, we’re on a mission to bring local, organic food to your table from farmers who share your values. To make it easier to shop your values and understand all of the label claims out there for meat, dairy and eggs, CFSA has created this handy pocket-sized guide that you can fold up and carry in your wallet!

>DOWNLOADPocket Guide to Meat, Egg and Dairy Labels

Join CFSA to ensure the farmers and food you want are more and more available – now and for future generations.

EXPERT TIP: Growing Good Certified Organic Transplants

by Aaron Newton, CFSA’s Lomax Farm Coordinator

Photo by J.H Photo

Photo by J.H Photo

Providing consistent access to nutrients during the early stages of transplant development is a problem many organic growers face. At Lomax Farm we’ve developed a strategy that addresses nutrient availability in transplant production and uses some key, low-cost equipment to accomplish the task.

This fall we will be testing different seed-starting recipes, and we will share those results with everyone later this year. For this Expert Tiphowever, we will focus on equipment and we’ll be using a standard recipe as an example.

Learn More

Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center Farms Organically, Grows Cultural Roots

By Lisa Fouladbash, Organic Policy Coordinator

Gwen Locklear at the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center's Organic Farm Photo submitted by Gwen Locklear

Gwen Locklear at the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center’s Organic Farm
Photo submitted by Gwen Locklear


When you first drive up to the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center in Hoke County, NC , in the heart of North Carolina farm country, you see a vibrant community center, tucked away on an enchanting small woodland and cypress pond. More striking yet is what you don’t see- the long, rich, tumultuous history upon which the center is built. The center, in many ways, represents the Lumbee’s fight against- and incredible triumph over- decades of oppression, segregation, and cultural silencing. Despite the adversity they have faced, the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center has become a beacon in the community, providing invaluable health, food and community services to the Lumbee community while keeping cultural traditions alive.


The Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center's Organic Farm has brought the whole community together! Photo used with permission from http://hawkeyeindianculturalcenter.com/gallery.php

The Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center’s Organic Farm has brought the whole community together!
Photo used with permission from http://hawkeyeindianculturalcenter.com/gallery.php


Of the many diverse projects Hawkeye offers, organic food and farming have become invaluable tools for fostering community engagement, sharing native cultural traditions, and providing healthy lifestyles for their youth. To begin to understand the true value of organic farming in this dynamic community; however, it’s helpful to dive into the vivid history behind the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center.


Hawkeye first started as a school of the Lumbee tribe in Hoke County, in 1924, and – like all Native American schools at the time- the Hawkeye School was segregated. With the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s came the integration of white and black children into the school. Unfortunately, this was accompanied by cultural appropriation, as white leaders in the community tried to erase the native cultural traditions and history of the school. Perhaps nothing can represent such cultural appropriation- the act of forceful stripping of one’s culture, history, and lineage- more than the changing of a name.  In 1968, white leaders in the community changed the name of the school from Hawkeye to South Hoke, and it remained this way for over 40 years. In 1997, the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center, along with another Native American not-for-profit, began to work to restore the name. It wasn’t until 2007- after 40 years of struggle- that the Lumbee were able to restore its rightful name- Hawkeye.


Hawkeye Powwow

The Hawkeye Pow wow in 2012.
Photo used with permission from http://hawkeyeindianculturalcenter.com/gallery.php


Today, Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center stands as a living symbol of the Lumbee’s resilience against adversity, and their unwavering commitment to preserving their rich culture. And food– organic food to be specific- has been a vital component to these efforts. After receiving a grant in 2012 for the Hawkeye Sustainable Lifeways Project, the center developed a certified organic farm to produce local, nutritious food for the community.


According to Gwen Locklear, the vice-chairman of Hawkeye, they developed the farm in response to the adverse health impacts she was seeing in her community. The Lumbee community in Hoke County struggles from astoundingly high rates of cancer and diabetes, and Gwen believes that the high use of chemicals in conventional farms and nearby textile plants are to blame. It wasn’t always this way, however. As I spoke to Gwen, she reminisced about how it used to be – when every tribal family had a garden to supply fresh food to their household. Unfortunately, with the advent of conventional tobacco and cotton practices, families began to rely more on farming with pesticides and herbicides, and less on gardens. But Hawkeye is changing the conversation, literally. Gwen told me, “The organic farm brings conversation back… older people come out and talk to the farmer and it brings back memories of how they were raised.” Some of these older generations have even been inspired to return to the farm, after coming to Hawkeye.  With a positive influence like this, Gwen believes Hawkeye can directly improve the health and well-being of the community, by providing healthy organic food and inspiring people to return to their farming roots.


The Hawkeye Indian Culture Center Farm

The Hawkeye Indian Culture Center Farm
Photo used with permission from http://hawkeyeindianculturalcenter.com/gallery.php


Importantly, the Hawkeye farm provides organic food at prices the Lumbee community members can afford. We all know that organic food can get expensive, and this often limits the ability of native communities to access it. Like most indigenous communities worldwide, the Lumbee struggle with limited access to resources, linked to a long history of dispossession and oppression. The Lumbee tribe faces an additional challenge- for though they are federally recognized (which should grant them rights and freedoms by the national government), language written into a 50-year-old government act has stripped them of their rights and freedoms, including their ability to access many basic, necessary government services, which are offered to other federally recognized tribes. Despite their many petitions to the national government to remedy this wrong-doing, the government fails to provide the Lumbee tribe with their full native rights to this very day.


The longhouse at the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center Photo submitted by Gwen Locklear

The longhouse at the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center
Photo submitted by Gwen Locklear

Regardless of the lack of governmental support, the Hawkeye Center has made great strides towards improving the health of the community through active community engagement. And their organic farm is a true community effort! Students from ten different universities assist in the farm through volunteering and courses. They learn about cultural plants, herbs and traditions as they get their hands dirty in the medicinal gardens, beautifully arranged in traditional sun circle patterns. They are able to reconnect with their ancestral traditions, by building a traditional longhouse along one of their cultural hiking trails. Community members can also participate, and learn valuable organic strategies they can take back to their own farms. As Gwen says, “The center is like a light in the community, a place of belonging, and organic farming has brought people together”.


Hawkeye Cultural Center Farm

Hawkeye currently has 2 acres in organic production. They sell their food at a small stand located next to the center, as well as through CSAs. But Gwen Locklear has a broader vision- that this will serve as a model farm and food hub that will inspire the growth and expansion of more organic farms across the entire Lumbee tribe. The next step? To engage with and sell to the community at Fort Bragg- the large military base in their backyard-providing health organic food to the US Army.


The Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center is a living example of how a community can rise above adversity through active community engagement. But it hasn’t been easy, and the reality is that native communities nationwide struggle with some of the highest rates of youth obesity and diabetes. As the people at Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center have shown us, local, organic farming can foster community resilience, increase food security, and improve health of these communities. But government support is also vital- to recognize the rights of tribes like Hawkeye, and provide resources and funding for research and tribal programs.  We at CFSA work to advocate for more resources, funding, and opportunities to continue building the local sustainable and organic, food systems that are the cornerstone of thriving communities.

Learn more about the Hawkeye Indian Culture Center’s Organic Farm at www.hawkeyeindianculturalcenter.com/organic-garden.php


Kissed by Miss December, an Organic Cow’s Story

by Lisa Fouladbash, CFSA’s Organic Policy Coordinator

Miss December reached out a long pink tongue and licked my hand. It was the first time I had been kissed by a cow, but I couldn’t say I minded; she was a beaut, after all.  As I watched her lazily chewing cud on the grassy pasture at Reedy Fork Organic Dairy Farm, I listened to Ben Miller, family dairy farmer, explain how she got her name. In their cow calendar this large, beautiful brown Holstein cow starred as the December spread. Though Ben tries not to let on, I can tell he has his favorites- and Miss December is one of them.

Cute Brown Cow from Reedy Fork Organic DairyMy visit to Reedy Fork was my first visit to a dairy farm. It was a picturesque, pastoral scene of healthy, happy cows sleepily grazing on sunny pastures. And each cow had a story. Ben pointed out another cow, a lovely Holstein-Jersey breed, and became pensive as he told me how one snowy day she and her calf didn’t come back to the barn. He was worried they’d slipped on the ice and went to look for them. You can see that he was relieved like a parent when he found mother and daughter safely huddled together for warmth in the corner of the field. I could tell that Ben has a special bond with the cows that only a farmer could have.

The farm wasn’t always like this; until 2007, Reedy Fork was a conventional dairy farm. Then, Ben made the decision to pursue organic certification for the farm. A shadow passed across Ben’s face as he told me about how, on particularly hot summer days before he switched to organic practices, the cows would struggle with the heat in the barn, which was paved with concrete. One day he saw a cow suffer from heat stroke. “Does that still happen?” I ask, and he tells me no, that with the grassy pastures and trees, the cows find plenty of shade to cool down. “Are the cows happier now?” I ask him. “Yes” he replies emphatically, “Our cows are much less stressed.” He explains, “Our cows have greatly appreciated our decision to transition to organic. They’re not stuck on concrete all day. They are out on green pasture-eating what they are made to eat”. I ask, “Do you share a closer bond with the cows now that you farm organically?” He tells me that yes, now that the cows are less stressed, and he works with them more closely, he can come to know each one better.

It’s clear to me that this is how cows were made to live – peacefully roaming on green fields and eating a lot of fresh grass. This is what USDA Certified Organic is. Yes, it reduces chemicals, pesticides and herbicides to protect the environment and improve our health. And it’s more than that; it requires that livestock farmers set up an environment where their animals can “exhibit natural behaviors”. In other words, a place where a cow can be a cow. And a happy cow, let’s face it, means a happier farmer.

“Organic is better for you, the soil, and the entire ecosystem on the farm. When you buy organic, you are helping support local farmers…. Farmers that are better to their animals, where their cows can live a better lifestyle.” Ben explains. When you buy organic food from a local farmer like Ben, you know you are helping keep your dollars here at home.

Take the advice from Ben Miller (and Miss December!): “This New Years, make it a resolution to buy as much local organic produce and meat and vegetables as you can. Help support a farmer around you, help support farmers that are doing the right things for you and the environment, and for their animals.”

Cow at Reedy Fork Organic Dairy