I’m so excited to tell you about the sponsored Stonyfield Farm Tour I went on a couple of weeks ago! We’re big fans of Stonyfield’s organic plain yogurts, and I have to tell you how cool it was to eat their yogurt for breakfast and then, on the very same day, see exactly how it began at one of their farms. Talk about knowing where your food comes from!
How Stonyfield Started
While on this trip, we got to spend some time with the co-founder, Gary Hirshberg, and it was interesting to hear how Stonyfield originally started as an organic farming school—I had no idea!
When they were low on funding and trying to figure out their next step, they were sitting around eating some yogurt they’d made from their milk when they had a brilliant idea. :) Soon after, as their yogurt business began to take off, they started to realize that they were having an even bigger impact on organic farming by helping farmers convert to organic and providing a need for their milk (to make the yogurt). This was a much bigger impact than just trying to teach farmers to make the switch on their own.
There are so many other (both unexpected + inspiring) things I saw and learned while on this trip in beautiful Vermont….
What I Saw and Learned
- Happy and healthy cows who are looked after by families who truly care.
These cows are their livelihood…they have names, they get loved on, they have moods that their owners understand, and they have access to go outside every single day. I got my first tour by the farmers’ 11-year-old son, and I was blown away by his knowledge and understanding of their business. Every day after school, he has a list of chores he happily tends to, and he loves working with the animals. It got me thinking that when I get back home, I need to assign my own children some additional duties around the house, or yard, or something!
- Two kick-butt women farmers.
These ladies (who work in partnership with their husbands) are so knowledgeable and passionate about organic farming it was hard to leave there not inspired. It’s really amazing how much goes into their business and how dedicated they are to their work.
- An amazing partnership between these families and Stonyfield.
Just for the record, even though this post is sponsored, I can say whatever I want to say. And this amazing partnership is exactly what I witnessed first hand. The co-founder, Gary Hirshberg, was there with us and he knows the kids’ names, he understands the family heritage, he stressed how important these farmers are to him and Stonyfield. More so, as a company, they provided an incredible amount of resources to help families transition from conventional to organic dairy farms (it takes three years to transition the land and one year to transition the cows) to create the partnerships they have today. Please understand when I tell you Stonyfield is the REAL DEAL!
- A “robot” that milks cows!
Any techie out there will love this. The first family we visited with young children invested in a robot to help milk their cows so they can have the flexibility to go to their kids’ sports games and other commitments. Any busy family can understand this balancing act! The cows line up when they know they’re ready (moms who’ve ever nursed a baby can relate, I am sure), they enter the stall, and then the machine sterilizes and hooks right up to their udders. The accompanying computer records which tagged cows have been milked and how many gallons they produced. It was amazing to see this technology!
- How scary farming can be (as a livelihood)
One reason dairy farmers have an interest in switching from conventional to organic is that the “pay price” for conventional milk is unpredictable and actually dropped about five years ago (and has stayed down ever since). Many of these conventional farmers don’t even know what they’re getting paid until the check arrives in the mail a month after they deliver their milk. Sadly, the current pay price isn’t even enough to cover their costs! Seeing the faces and families behind the two farms on my tour made me realize how hard it would be for them to give up the land and business that have been in their family for generations. Not to mention, what other job out there doesn’t tell you what you’re getting paid until the work is already done??
And, bonus, I got to meet and spend time with some great bloggers (IRL)! One in particular, Andie Mitchell, that I had connected with online quite a few years ago, even guest posted here on the blog, so it was super fun to meet in person!
Organic vs Conventional: 3 Myths Busted
- FALSE: The higher yield of conventional crops is better for our planet than organic farming (that can’t feed as many people).
The yield gap is getting smaller every year. Nationally, not nearly as much effort/funds have been put into improving yields for organic farming compared to conventional. Even so, they’ve made great strides and are currently down to about a 15% yield gap. Not to mention, the increased production in conventional does not outweigh the negative impact on our environment from all the unwanted chemicals they use.
- FALSE: Organic crops are sprayed with pesticides just like conventional produce.
The “pesticides” used on organic plants are ALL NATURAL. Only 19 or 20 are allowed and, not only are they from completely natural sources, but they are thoroughly vetted. They are nothing like the synthetic counterparts used in conventional farming.
- FALSE: Conventional dairy cows are outside just as much as the organic ones.
Only about 18% of conventional dairy cows even go outside (yikes!) while organic dairy cows have access to go outside every single day.
Stay tuned because tomorrow I’ll be sharing a yummy grilled chicken recipe that I marinated in Stonyfield yogurt (along with some other flavors). The yogurt really tenderizes the chicken so be on the lookout for those details tomorrow! I hope you enjoyed hearing about the farm visit.
This post is sponsored by Stonyfield. All opinions expressed herein are my own and not those of the company.