Organic Valley History

Organic Valley Family of Farms began in 1988 as a small, organic farming cooperative known as the Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool (CROPP), with seven farmers who shared a belief that a new, sustainable approach to agriculture was needed if family farms and rural communities were to survive. The organization has since grown into the largest farmers’ cooperative in North America, with more than 1,100 organic farmers in 29 states and one province in Canada.
Starting with organic vegetables, Organic Valley soon moved into dairy products, developed its own brand name and expanded its product line to include juice, eggs, meat and soy. Marketed under the Organic Valley™ label, the co-op soon became the largest source of organic milk in the nation.
Farmer members establish equity when they join the cooperative. From the membership, a national board of directors is elected. Members’ opinions are carried to the board through regional executive committees. They also have the opportunity to serve on regional committees and participate in cooperative governance and marketing. In addition to a member-determined pay-price and equity ownership in a leading national food brand, members receive numerous benefits including support in production, certification, farm planning, feed sourcing and veterinary consultation.
As more farmers join the cooperative, management works to balance supply with consumer demand and the labor needed to support our marketing operations. To enhance sustainability, Organic Valley has adopted a profit-sharing model that delivers 45 percent profits each to farmers and employees, and the remaining 10 percent to the communities in which the company does business.
One of the nation’s foremost organic agriculture advocates for nearly two decades, George Siemon is best known for his leadership in organizing farmers and building market support for organic agriculture.
Himself an organic farmer, Siemon champions a system that supports small farmers, defends humane treatment of farm animals, benefits the environment and gives consumers high-quality organic food.
In 1988, Siemon joined a half-dozen neighboring family farmers to found the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP), known more familiarly as Organic Valley Family of Farms.
As chairman of the Organic Trade Association’s Livestock Committee, Siemon was instrumental in developing effective national standards for organic certification, a process directed by the United States Department of Agriculture. A past member of the USDA’s Small Farm Advisory Committee, he is serving a USDA appointed, five-year term on the National Organic Standards Board.
In 2003, Organic Valley received Business Ethics magazine’s Living Economy Award, and in May 2004 Siemon was recognized with the Community Activist Award from the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association.
A native of Florida, Siemon and his family have owned and operated an organic farm in southwestern Wisconsin since 1977. He received his bachelor’s degree in animal science from Colorado State University at Fort Collins.
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