why our farm is not organic

Why Our Farm is Not Organic

why our farm is not organic

There is a lot of discussion on organic vs. conventional farming practices theses days. It’s hard to separate the facts from opinions with various marketing campaigns, social media memes, celebrities, etc. sharing their opinions on how to farm the right way. Recently, when I mention that I am a dairy farmer, the next question I receive is:

Are you organic?”

You would think that when I answer that we are not an organic farm, people could respect that. Unfortunately, it’s often not the case. I almost feel like admitting we are not organic is like a guilty verdict for some sort of crime we did not commit. So I thought it was time to explain why our farm is not organic and why that is okay.

  • Access to Pasture- I was recently talking with a fellow dairy farmer. Her farm is an organic farm in Oregon. As an organic dairy farm, cows need to have 30% of their feed come from pasture. In order to get started, we had to lease a farm as opposed to purchasing a farm. The farm we lease does not have enough available land near it to allow our girls to graze during the summer months. Currently all our young stock are raised on pasture (during the summer months) until they are almost two years old. We lease pasture from folks in our community at several different locations. The ultimate goal is to have all our cows have access to an exercise lot (basically a field or dirt area). Our location, elevation and lack of irrigated fields around our farm all play a part in not being able to provide the 30% of feed that being certified organic would require. Let it be noted that several farms in our community pasture their milk cows. They are also conventional dairy farms. Pasturing animals has nothing to do with the label and everything to do with land available and how the farm is set up. It is a work in progress for this first generation dairy farm of ours. We will still be a conventional dairy farm. We have no plans on making the three-year transition to organic farming.
  • Antibiotics- A common misconception is that organic dairy farmers do not use antibiotics. They do. If an animal is sick and antibiotics are the only thing that will save its life, they will use them. That animal then has to be removed from their herd. This is something I am not okay with doing. Antibiotics have strict withdrawal times, it does its job and is out of the cow’s system within a certain period of time. Selling a cow that has been on our farm since the day she was born simply because she had to be treated with antibiotics once is simply something I cannot do. Regardless if the animal is treated on an organic or conventional farm, proper withdrawal periods are met and the milk from treated cows does not enter the milk supply. Read more here and here on the many steps we take to ensure the milk that leaves our farm is antibiotic free.
  • No Place to Send Our Milk- Where we are located, there is no processing facility to send organic milk.
  • Processing Our Own Milk- In a perfect world we would process and sell our own milk. To process your own milk takes special equipment and would require a new building and more employees. It would take a lot of money as well as time, both of which we do not have. It’s simply not an option for us. We are happy to be part of a cooperative which allows us to focus on what matters most, our kids & cows.

We do not have enough available pasture to meet the feed requirements, we get a little too attached to our cows to sell one simply because she became ill once in her life and we have no where (locally) to process organic milk, does that somehow make us bad people? Does that somehow mean that we are not good farmers or that our cows are not well cared for? To some folks, it does. We take great pride in the care we provide for our cows and know that we are providing others with a high quality, affordable & nutritious food both in the dairy and meat aisle (yes dairy cows are part of the beef supply too).

Every farm has to do what is best for their family and their farm. You will never find two farms the same. A label doesn’t somehow make one method of production superior to another. Majority of farmers take great pride in caring for cows and the environment. The milk you purchase in stores regardless of the label, is safe & nutritious.

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Krista Stauffer

Owner at Stauffer Dairy
Krista is a wife, mother of three & first generation dairy farmer. Together with her husband, they milk 200 cows. Krista loves to write, take photos, travel and meet new people. She loves raising her kids on their family dairy farm and is incredibly passionate about their way of life.

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Krista Stauffer

Krista is a wife, mother of three & first generation dairy farmer. Together with her husband, they milk 200 cows. Krista loves to write, take photos, travel and meet new people. She loves raising her kids on their family dairy farm and is incredibly passionate about their way of life.

13 thoughts on “Why Our Farm is Not Organic”

  1. Great article!! I’ve had some convos on organic milk lately with a few friends that make me want to facepalm. This is perfect timing, I’m going to share it over on my blog and hope that drives the point home lol : ) Thanks!

  2. Wonderful article! We are fortunate that we are able to farm organic, I love it!! Seeing our girls out the backdoor grazing and naturally fertilizing their pastures is a beautiful site. Although I love farming organic I do not hold it against anyone who does not. Conventional or organic it’s how you treat your girls that makes you a great farmer.

    1. I agree, it’s all how you treat the girls. I just want people to realize that good farmers are good farmers, despite the label their milk falls under. Milk is still a nutrient power house from your farm or mine!

  3. Good article but not the whole story. I agree that how you treat your animals is very very important and you deserve credit for doing that right. That is just one factor people using organic products consider. We do not want GMO feed or Roundup near our food. There is plenty of science to prove these things do not belong in our food and cause many illnesses and problems. We drink raw milk in our home and it has so many great health benefits. The conventional milk industry has gone against raw milk by lobbying for strict laws that control local farmers and benefit big milk. We cannot make excuses for why we don’t do things the right way. There is no excuse to allow poison in our animals food and to prevent others from drinking raw milk and having freedom to chose how they eat. On our farm we try to practice what we believe and we raise our animals on pasture and supplement with Non-GMO feed. It’s not easy, we have to drive one hour to get our feed but we believe it is the right thing to do.

    1. I am happy you are doing what you feel is best for your family and your animals. I will continue to do what is best for mine. I do not believe that raw milk is better nutrient wise (http://bit.ly/1n4xZqZ) but I do not condem those that drink it or those that provide it for others. We live in Washington state and anyone who desires can go through the process to become a licensed raw milk producer, my friend Angie is a perfect example of that. Her page is Douglas Falls Creamery and I am sure she will chime in as well. As far as GMOs, I support them and do not believe them to be harmful (http://onforb.es/1mc5aaz). In regards to round-up, there is so much misinformation out there about it this (http://bit.ly/1ZNZseu) is a great break down of what it is/isnt by my friend Sara of It’s MomSense. In addition, I find the latest study from WSU very intersting finding no glyphosate residue in women’s breastmilk (http://bit.ly/1n4ywt2). In addition, I do not feel that feeding GMOs to cows will have a negative impact on them or their milk (http://bit.ly/22L0Q3W). It’s not just about happy cows, its about health cows. We have very healthy cows and we stand by what we do and how we do it. There are folks like yourself that choose to purchase organic and that is great, I have a ton of amazing organic friends, but there is also a lot of people that trust what we do and the products we provide.

      1. Krista–thank you for your reasoned and rational reply and also for providing links to back up your words (tho’ the Forbes one doesn’t work for me). I’m not a farmer but as a consumer, a mom of 3 and the wife of a biomedical researcher, I appreciate rational, fact-based decision-making and you’ve done a great job of providing that.

    2. “We do not want GMO feed or Roundup near our food. There is plenty of science to prove these things do not belong in our food and cause many illnesses and problems. ”
      Please quote your source. Thanks!

    3. I used to work for a raw milk farmer, then I switched to working for conventional farmers because of some serious concerns about that raw milk farmer’s practices and integrity. The myth that “raw/ organic farmers are better farmers” has been since then totally busted in my mind. I also noticed that, just because conventional farmers could use GMO corn and Roundup, does not mean everyone choose them. I met plenty of farmers who don’t spray their pasture and prefer non-GMO corn. If you want to see the laws changed, it’s not farmers you need to be in discussion with, but with the law makers. We live in a society (luckily) in which we can make our voice heard via a proper route. I hope you will stick with what you believe and keep making your voice heard, but not by bashing other fellow farmers or put a blame on a wrong place. Happy farming!

  4. I would love to go organic as well but it just isn’t feasible. The only organic farms within the province are all heavily funded by government subsidies because, business-wise, they are not sustainable. Perhaps things will change in the future as more consumers demand and more options become available but, for now, we will continue to run our farm in the best way that we are able to. Thanks for putting the farmer’s side of the story out there.

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