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OUR SUMMARY OF BELIEFS

Over 25 years ago, our company helped pioneer organic production practices and standards. To this day, our passion for identifying and adopting the latest and best organic methods continues to be fueled by our fundamental belief that organic farming is the only truly sustainable agricultural production system in the world. A natural, holistic system capable of producing pure, safe dairy products while improving the health of consumers, the health of animals, and the health of our planet’s precious soil and water resources.

As the first and largest national organic dairy brand, we feel a responsibility not only to continue improving the way we run our own Maryland farm but also to continue advancing our industry, especially as it relates to organic production practices.

For quite some time, we have been advocating, along with others, for clear and tough organic standards that go beyond what is currently required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). At the same time, through the experiences of our farm, and collaborations and input from innovators like Conservation International, Holistic Management International® (HMI), Dr. Hubert Karreman, VMD, Wild Farm Alliance and others, we have developed our own standards of care to guide how we will manage our farm, now and in the future.

We will always support efforts to raise the minimum organic standards and will continue to wholeheartedly support the spirit and intent of the organic regulations. In addition, as an industry leader we believe it is important to define and communicate our point of view about the art and science of organic milk production.

The below information lays out a comprehensive set of beliefs, as well as specific management practices that we are following on our own farm. In developing these standards, we’ve applied what we have learned over the past two decades to determine how we can do things even better in the years ahead. 

We take great pride in the fact that Horizon Organic has been the pioneer in the organic dairy industry. We have always led by example and, with these standards, and we will continue to do so. That is our Organic Pledge.

OUR SUMMARY OF BELIEFS

Horizon Organic's livestock and farm management standards are guided by nine belief statements. Collectively, these beliefs and standards ensure that we provide safe and high-quality organic milk and dairy products to consumers, and that we uphold the highest standards in caring for our animals and the land. 

We believe the best way to know exactly how each of our organic cows has been raised and treated is to raise them ourselves. Our calves are raised organically from certified organic mothers to ensure the organic integrity of our herds from generation to generation.

We believe animal care and welfare should be holistic, preventive, and natural. We feel a moral obligation to care for our animals and treat them humanely and with respect. That is why we don't perform practices such as tail-docking. When necessary, disbudding is done at a young age with appropriate pain medication. When a calf or a cow does become ill, we rely on natural and alternative veterinary methods.

We believe good nutrition starts with the soil. Building and maintaining healthy soil is the basis for animal nutrition and successful organic farming. Soil heath directly affects the quality of grass and harvested feed, which in turn affects the nutritional value a dairy cow receives. 

We believe grazing is about managing the complex interaction between the grass, the land, and the cows. Grazing processes should emulate natural herd behaviors. The land benefits from the carefully planned movement of the cows, which aerate and fertilize the soil, breaking the soil's surface and encouraging moisture penetration, seed generation, and carbon sequestration.

We believe pasture management should be sustainable while regenerating soil, land, and water resources and, also, enhancing the growth and nutritional value of the grass. Our farm uses sustainable and holistic pasture management practices, works to eliminate outside inputs, and uses planned grazing to improve soil fertility, plant growth, and herd health.

We believe organic dairy cattle should be outside as often as possible, year-round, to graze, exercise, socialize, and interact with the land. We keep daily written records of the comings and goings of all our cows. These records include when the cows went outside, where they were grazed, and how much time they spent outside grazing.

We believe in sustainable farming practices that protect and enhance our natural resources for the good of our animals, our communities, and our planet. We are actively working to reduce overall energy use on our farm, including reducing fuel, electricity and water use and increasing biodiversity through farming practices that conserve and replenish our biological resources.

We believe in limiting off-farm inputs on our dairy farm to better control organic quality. In addition to pasture grass, our farm maximizes the production of our own forage by growing the majority of our own forage needs onsite.

We believe in maintaining detailed annual plans for our farm and evaluating our performance against those plans. Our farm's Organic Systems Plan (OSP) is designed to ensure compliance with the USDA regulations. The OSP is reviewed throughout the year and during the annual farm inspection process. As a company that pioneered organic practices, we feel a responsibility to manage our farm in a way that earns the ongoing respect of our peers in organic production and organic enthusiasts who expect us to meet not only the letter of the law but also the spirit of organic production.

RAISING CALVES

Our Belief 

We believe in raising our own calves from certified organic mothers to ensure the organic integrity of our herds from generation to generation, and on our farm.

Our Standards

Raising calves organically. The best way to know exactly how each of our organic cows has been raised and treated is to raise them ourselves. On our farm, we raise all of our own calves organically from certified organic mothers. Our goal is that all of the organic calves born on our farm will come from certified organic cows also born on our farm.

Maternity Care 

We do everything possible to create a healthy environment for our expectant cows. This includes special maternity and birthing areas that allow them to give birth in a safe, secure, stress-free environment.

Birth Records

We keep detailed records on all breeding and birthing activity on our farm. These records include health records for both mothers and offspring.

Sexed Semen 

Although not directly prohibited by the USDA National Organic Program, we are opposed to using sexed semen on organic dairy farms. Sexed semen is used to guarantee the gender of calves, an unnatural practice that limits biodiversity.

Cloning

We will not accept milk from cows that have been cloned. Cloning is incompatible with organic agriculture, limits biodiversity, and is not possible under natural conditions.

Polled Genetics

We are deeply committed to animal welfare and feel strongly about educating on the benefits of polled genetics. We continue to talk to industry experts and research best practices for polled stock.

NUTRITION

Our Belief 

We believe good nutrition starts with the soil. Building and maintaining healthy soil is the basis for animal nutrition and successful organic farming. 

Our Standards 

Balanced Diet

Our farm provides our dairy cattle with a balanced mixture of grass, feed, forage (i.e. hay), minerals, and fiber sources. Our goal is to provide cows with a healthy, balanced diet. 

Nutrition from Grass

A wholesome, organic diet is one of the most critical steps to ensure cow health, reduce the incidence of disease, extend milk production, improve calving, and maintain the overall health of our dairy cows. That’s why our farm begins by focusing on soil health as the cornerstone of animal nutrition.

Soil health directly affects the quality of grass and harvested feed, which in turn affects the nutritional value a dairy cow receives. Soil management for grasslands and crops, as well as forage testing and analysis, play an important role in proper dairy cow nutrition.

Our farm maximizes the herd’s daily nutritional intake from organic pasture during the active grazing season. Pasture is a required and calculated portion of the feed ration, and forage samples are taken and recorded throughout the growing season. We carefully manage the interaction of the grass, the soil, and the cows to make sure that cows are getting as much nutritional value as possible from pasture grass; plants have appropriate recovery time; soil is covered; and the management of the cows results in healthier pastures.

We have worked with grazing experts to ensure that our farm management practices optimize the inextricable link between nutrition and plant recovery, soil health, and pasture management.

Nutrition from Feed

When our cows are not grazing on pasture, they eat organic hay and feed. Our feed and forage are produced without the use of animal byproducts, genetically modified forages or grains (GMOs), or prohibited herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers.

Soil Health 

Our farm recognizes the inextricable link between the health of the dairy cattle and the health of the land. Soil health is the foundation of a plant’s nutritive value to cattle, so our farm maintains extensive soil management plans.

We think ecologically and view the farm as a whole, cooperating with the environment to build soil health. When soil is biologically active and fertile, it will exhibit certain characteristics such as proper aeration, water-holding capacity, and excellent drainage. These are prime conditions for plant health.

The incredible importance of soil health seems neglected in today’s agricultural practices. Many soils are mineral-deficient and lack proper earthworm populations which are critical to healthy soils. Earthworms help to build an aerated soil structure that prevents puddling, erosion, and excessive runoff. These issues are symptomatic of today’s failure to think of the farm as a part of an entire ecosystem. Our farm saves resources and reduces the amount of cattle feed supplements by ensuring that our soils are properly nurtured, thus allowing plants to provide nutritive value in a natural way.

Daily Record-Keeping

Our organic dairy farm keeps daily, written records of nutritional activity. Records must document that all forage, feed grains, fiber, and protein sources are 100 percent organic. Records are audited annually by a designated certifying agent of the USDA.

GRAZING

Our Belief 

We believe grazing is about managing the complex interaction between the grass, the land, and the cows. Grazing processes should emulate natural herd behaviors. 

Our Standards

On our farm, dairy cows are out on organic pasture during the grazing season. Based on an expanding body of scientific evidence that suggests cows should have access to the pasture during the dormant season so they get fresh air, exercise and some added nutritional benefit, we also put the cows out during the dormant or closed season. The land benefits from the carefully planned movement of the animals, which aerate and fertilize the soil, breaking the soil surface and encouraging moisture penetration, seed generation and carbon sequestration. 

We believe pasture must be managed as a crop. We are a strong proponent of clear, enforceable pasture regulations and worked with many organic community members, including the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), and National Organic Coalition (NOC) in urging the USDA to clarify the pasture regulation in a manner that would allow regulators to ascertain compliance and carry out enforcement. Our efforts were rewarded with the USDA’s publication of an amended regulation providing clarification and specificity to the ruminant organic livestock pasturing requirements. These dramatically improved standards require grazing all ruminants for the farm’s entire grazing season, and that no grazing season is less than 120 days. Each animal must receive at least 30 percent of its dry matter intake from grazing pasture. Farmers must have a management plan for pasture, manage their pastures as a crop, and manage them to protect soil and water quality. Certifying agents must ensure that the farmer has the required pasture plan, that they operate to the plan and that each animal grazes throughout the grazing season, and that it receives at least 30 percent dry matter intake from grazing.

Our farm will continue to implement cutting edge, pioneering grazing practices. In any environment, overgrazing and damage from trampling bear little relationship to the number of animals, but rather to the amount of time plants and soils are exposed to the animals. 

Much of the land deterioration that has occurred in brittle environments around the world began when humans severed the vital relationship between grazing animals and grass. Through the cow-to-grass relationship on our farm, we can more accurately predict how the land is responding to our management practices.

Grazing, during both active and dormant seasons, is managed and timed carefully to ensure the health of the animals and the micro-environment of the soil’s surface. Obviously, all of our grazing goals depend upon the cooperation of Mother Nature.

Grazing Density

We focus on managing the complex interaction of the growth and vitality of the grass, the state of the soil, the number of cows grazing, and the duration of grazing. Our managed grazing approach follows the natural grazing behaviors of herds as they graze, urinate, fertilize the land, and move on, satisfying their nutritional needs while leaving the pastures and soil in a healthy state. We also continually invest in the grazing infrastructure on our farm to facilitate grazing “traffic patterns” that make sense for our cows and pasture health.

Record-Keeping

Our organic dairy farm keeps daily written records of all grazing activity. We have standardized systems so that we can make better decisions on current and future pasture management, analyze trends, and generate reports on grazing. These records include the number of cows on pasture, their time on pasture, how much and where they grazed, the effect that grazing had on the pasture, and whether our management is producing the health for the animal and land we are seeking. Our daily pasture logs are audited by our farm’s designated USDA certifying agent.

PASTURE MANAGEMENT

Our Belief

We believe pasture management should be sustainable while regenerating soil, land, and water resources and, also, enhancing the growth and nutritional value of the grass.

Our Standards

Pasture Principles

On our farm, pastures represent more than grass. This is evident from our pasture management goal: healthier soils, animals, and humans while profitably renewing our lifesupporting environment. Done right, organic agricultural practices positively affect our environment by rejuvenating plant growth, reducing resource degradation, and nurturing animals.

Livestock and pasture management go hand-in-hand on our farm because our certified organic pastures play an integral role in our livestock feeding program. Consistent with NOP regulations, we do not use harmful chemicals or pesticides that can pollute the air, water, and food. Our farm uses sustainable and holistic pasture management practices, works to eliminate outside inputs, and uses planned grazing to improve soil fertility, plant growth, and herd health.

We believe the natural complexity of land, livestock, and plants are part of one natural interdependent system and, as such, must be managed together as one. Our farm incorporates the farm and pasture management practices developed originally by Allan Savory. The holistic approach focuses on producing a healthy product while regenerating the resource base from which it comes, which requires managing all aspects of our dairy farm not individually but rather as part of an entire ecosystem. Our farm management decisions consider the environmental, social (animals and people), and economic implications. Because this is so important, our farm produces milk and also serves as a learning center for organic practices.

We believe the pasture’s health is crucial to the cow’s health and ultimately to the quality of our milk. This holistic method of farming is a continuous process of planning, implementing, monitoring, controlling, and re-planning. Sustainable agriculture cannot be an event, a prescription, or a standard. It must be an ongoing process of producing while actually regenerating and even enhancing natural resources. This process must sustain life for the community that surrounds our farm – now and in the future.

Soil

On our farm, the most important aspect of pasture management is soil and soil cover. Soil is a living organism that develops from the top down, so our farm aims to build soil from the surface. Whether it is a rain-fed or irrigated pasture, we encourage practices that keep pastures covered year-round with plant material. Plant matter feeds the soil, promotes plant health and pasture productivity, and boosts the available nutrient value to cattle. Soil cover also ensures better water retention so that pastures can thrive on less water and erosion is minimized. 

Grass

Our farm is restoring permanent pastures with perennial grasses that thrive in the region and extend the grazing season by establishing and nurturing a combination of native cool- and warm-season grasses. One of our goals is to foster biodiversity on our pastures – that is, to perpetuate as many native grass species as possible for future generations.

Plant Health

To maximize pasture and ecosystem health, our farm carefully plans the “graze, trample, recovery” ratio of the relationship between the cows, soils, and plants; and monitors pastures to ensure that plants have time to recover and cattle can feed on pastures while benefiting the plants and the land.

    • Good grass management requires daily monitoring to avoid both pasture stress and over-rested pastures. Those who manage the grazing program become experts at “reading” grass. The tops of grass plants indicate the health of the root system. This relationship is the basis of monitoring the status of our pastures and grasslands.

    • Our farm moves cattle to new paddocks or pastures while pastures left behind are given recovery periods for plants. The recovery period for plants varies due to a variety of factors such as the season, precipitation, climate, soils, type of plant, and other factors. Cattle on our farm do not return to a particular paddock of pasture until grass leaves and roots have fully recovered. Daily, we monitor pastures for plant (grass blade) health before allowing cattle to graze.

    • Just like over-grazing, over-resting and under-grazing can destroy the grass. 

Grazing and Pasture Management

Grazing practices on our farm are focused on accomplishing key objectives:

    • Stimulating grasses to grow vigorously and develop healthy root systems.

    • Nourishing our cows.

    • Rebuilding the soil by replacing nutrients, keeping soil cover at all times, rekindling natural soil forming processes, and providing adequate rest from grazing without over-resting.

Managed grazing replenishes pasture and nourishes animals. Our fields are divided in flexible “paddocks” according to pasture conditions and livestock needs. This allows us to manage grazing in a way that is good for the cows and good for the grass/soil. 

Animal-Soil Interaction 

Our farm carefully monitors and regulates animal movements to imitate natural grazing patterns. In natural conditions, grazing animals stay tightly bunched to protect themselves from predators. They intensively graze, trample, and fertilize on a small area for a short period of time, then move on, not returning until their waste has been fully decomposed into the soil. This also provides time for grass to recover.

Our cattle benefit the pastures through these natural behaviors. The trampling action of their hooves breaks the crust of the soil allowing moisture and seed to enter, creates seed-to-soil contact, and helps dormant seeds to germinate and establish. Cows also mulch the soil surface with trampled vegetation (protecting it from erosion and reducing soil surface evaporation), and fertilize the soil with their waste. And, grazing allows sunlight to reach the growth points of perennial, bunch grasses. In fact, the goal is to mimic the behavior that occurred on the open range hundreds of years ago.

Monitoring and Record-Keeping

We maintain detailed, written records of all activities and inputs relative to pasture management. Monitoring serves the key role of providing our management team with information with which it can make better decisions (day to day and when annual planning for the grazing takes place). Our management staff visually inspects pastures and pasture grasses daily and samples forage at least monthly during the growing season. Forage samples are taken to third party labs for testing for relative feed value, protein, minerals, and digestible fiber. Soil tests are also taken. The records on our farm capture all monitoring and surveying observations of the pastures, allowing us to make better decisions, to create a historical record, and to analyze and predict future trends. In keeping with holistic practices, our farm annually surveys pastures and measures for soil and crop quality, biodiversity, ecological effects, livestock impact, and overall sustainability.

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT

Our Belief

We believe organic dairy cattle should be outside as often as possible, year-round, to graze, exercise, socialize, and interact with the land.

Our Standards

Freedom of movement

Cows are social beings. They have herding and bunching instincts and exhibit certain group behaviors which provide important health benefits for them. For that reason, we make sure our cows are free to move about whenever they are not being milked or receiving individual care. Our cattle are free to graze, exercise, and interact with the outdoors. Even when they are indoors, we make sure our animals have plenty of room to turn around, lie down, or move about.

Exceptions

We understand there are times when it is not in the best interest of the animals to be on pastures or to go outside, including:

    • During adverse weather conditions;

    • When cows are ill and receiving treatment; 

    • When cows could cause damage to pastures (compaction, ripping of sod, etc.).

These exceptions are fully documented as part of our daily record-keeping process and consistent with the individual management plans developed for our farm.

Daily Record-Keeping

We keep daily written records of the comings and goings of all of our cows. These records include the number of cows outside, when they went outside, where they were grazed, how much time they spent outside grazing, etc.

ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP

Our Belief

We believe in sustainable farming practices that protect and enhance our natural resources for the good of our animals, our communities and our planet.

Our Standards 

Responsible Livelihood

We are actively working to reduce overall energy use on our farm, including reducing fuel, electricity and water use. Projects include recycling stations, solar panels and high efficiency water fixtures.

Biodiversity 

We provide high quality organic milk through farming practices that conserve and replenish our biological resources. As good stewards of the land, we must respect and protect the environment — soil, water, air, plants, and wildlife — as well as our livestock and land. We are committed to supporting biodiversity with regenerative farm management practices and natural resource conservation, managing our farm in the context of a broader ecosystem.

Grazing animals on pasture rebuilds soil organic matter and provides other ecosystem benefits. According to HMI, grasslands represent roughly two thirds of the earth’s land surface, and their soils, plants and root systems represent one of the largest potential carbon sinks. Holistic pasturing practices help rebuild soils, reduce soil erosion, drought and flooding, and significantly mitigate wildfires. In addition, well managed pastures can improve water retention in soils and provide wildlife habitat. As environmental stewards, our farm is focused on natural resource conservation.

We are committed to:

    • Constantly improving soil and water quality to benefit all creatures. 

    • Monitoring and managing water quality and availability, and ensuring efficient water use.

    • Protecting water quality by controlling access to sensitive habitats to prevent and protect plants and animals. Watering and feeding systems are located away from natural water sources, such as streams.

    • Maintaining or improving wetlands and woodlands.

    • Eliminating the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers which can contaminate groundwater and harm wildlife.

    • Using mowing and tilling practices to leave cover for wildlife.

    • Working with conservation authorities on local and regional conservation priorities.

    • Restoring native grasses.

We continue to investigate methods of improving biodiversity and crop diversity practices on our own farm, using intercropping, green manure cover crops, nurse crops and shade crops to create a more diverse environment and habitat.

Our farm has also inspired neighbors to convert their farms to organic, further improving the environmental health of the region.

Soil and Plant Health

Our dairy farm uses environmentally responsible methods to feed the soil, control weeds and pests, and keep cows healthy. This holistic approach is applied through pasture management, grazing, buffer zones, biodiversity, and other conservation practices which prevent ground water contamination, soil erosion, and nutrient runoff; increase soil’s water absorption; and foster healthy plant and animal habitats.

Our farm creates and implements comprehensive management plans, which include but are not limited to manure storage, and timely application of manure liquids and minerals to pastures and crop lands to feed the incredible diversity of living creatures in the soil.

From the tiniest bacteria and fungi to earthworms and other invertebrates, these organisms, as they live and thrive, move through the soil decomposing manure, and plant residues. They are integral to the soil food web. If nurtured, they will contribute to the improvement of soil quality, nitrogen-enhancing structures, porosity for water flow and retention, and carbon sequestration which result in cleaner air and water.

Greenhouse Gases

We are committed to reducing our impact on the global environment and conducting an annual inventory of our greenhouse gas emissions, setting reduction goals, and monitoring our progress. As part of this commitment to reduce our impact on the environment, we are striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at our dairy based on a 2006 baseline.

Water Conservation

Healthy soils retain more water, and require less irrigation. On our farm, in addition to building soil health through pasturing, we use water conservation and erosion control practices that allow water to penetrate the ground more deeply, enabling crops to use water more efficiently. Practices include cover cropping, minimal tillage, and planning irrigation cycles based on soil water levels.

Land Application

The solid and liquid generated by our dairy farm provides natural, nutrient-rich soil inputs that promote plant growth and improve soil health. Though exact application methods vary with season, and type of crop, our farm tests soil before applying manure to protect crops, soil, or water.

Pasture Management

Pasture vitality is not only important to our livestock’s feeding program, it also helps to sustain and encourage plant growth, rejuvenate the soil, control soil run-off, increase drainage, and benefit the natural environment with minimal inputs. Our farm takes a natural and holistic approach to managed livestock grazing, pasture management, and pasture rotation practices for irrigated and non-irrigated pastures. Our holistic principles, established by Allan Savory, founder of HMI, recognize a pasture’s relationship to the broader ecosystem and biodiversity.

Fertilizers and Chemicals

Our farm is generally prohibited from using harmful pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, and other chemicals on pasture and crops used to feed organic dairy cows. Through our waste management programs, our farm produces the majority of its own fertilizer needs. Manure applications to our crops are carefully monitored and recorded. 

Pest Control 

Our primary defense against pests is to keep facilities dry and clean at all times. If needed, we use traps, lures, and natural repellant materials that are approved on the National List of Allowed Substances for Livestock Production established by USDA’s National Organic Standards.

Weed Control

Our farm uses the practices of mowing, livestock grazing, mechanical cultivation, and other means to control weeds.

SOURCING INPUTS

Our Belief

We believe in limiting off-farm inputs on our dairy farm to better control organic quality.

Our Standards

All farm inputs — including feedstuffs, natural minerals, and crop and forage seed, bedding materials, as well as animal health care and pest control products — have the potential to affect the integrity of organic milk. Therefore, these inputs must be certified organic or approved for organic use, in compliance with the NOP standards as established by the USDA, and carefully controlled, researched, verified, and recorded.

Forage

Because forage is the main portion of our cattle’s diet, it is crucial that we ensure its quality, feed value, and organic integrity. In addition to pasture grass, our farm maximizes the production of our own forage by growing the majority of our own forage needs onsite. The balance of our forage requirements is supplied by certified organic contract growers. We prefer to use local growers, who we know, to the extent available. We rely on relationships with growers and their organic certifiers to ensure product integrity. 

For forage to be certified organic, the land must be managed according to organic practices for at least three years before the crops can be considered “organic.” Organic hayfields must have buffer zones and well-defined boundaries. Growers are required to provide detailed records of how products are grown and stored.

Feed

Feed is either grown on the farm or sourced from a list of approved USDA certified organic growers. Each load that is not produced on the farm requires documentation certifying that the feed was organically produced and handled. Harvest records are maintained for all crops produced by our farm.

Crops produced in buffer zones are used for conservation practices and offer protection from neighboring non-organic crops. These crops are isolated from organic feed or are plowed under as “green manure.” For our buffer zones we use both native ground and crop land. Equipment that is used for a non-organic harvest is cleaned prior to organic use. All cleaning equipment and materials must be approved for organic use.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Feed Additives 

Additional feed additives such as vitamins and minerals are provided to our livestock. All ingredients used by our farm are approved for organic use. Source and supplier verifications are included in farm records.

Seed Stock 

Our farm uses certified organic seeds. Unfortunately, supplies are often limited. During times when organic seed stock is not available, our farm will choose another crop variety. We are strong advocates for increased varieties and volumes of certified organic seed and are working with industry groups to improve availability.

Record-Keeping

In keeping with the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OFPA), our farm maintains detailed records that verify and document that our farm inputs are in keeping with NOP standards and that product sources are either certified organic or are on the USDA’s approved list. Like all other organic records, this information is audited annually by our farm's designated third-party certifying agent.

MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Our Belief 

We believe in developing detailed annual plans for our farm and evaluating our performance against those plans.

Our Standards

Farm Plans

As a company that pioneered organic practices, we feel a responsibility to manage our farm in a way that meets or exceeds the USDA standards and earns the ongoing respect of our peers in organic production and organic enthusiasts who expect us not only to meet the letter of the law but also the spirit of organic production. 

Day-to-day operations on our farm are guided by two plans. The first is an Organic Systems Plan (OSP), which is very detailed and developed prior to the start of each year. The OSP is designed to ensure compliance with the USDA regulations and facilitate the audit done on our farm each year in order to receive our organic certification. In addition to the OSP, we also develop a plan that includes new initiatives that we deem necessary for our farm.

Our plans contain the following components:

    • A description of the practices and procedures we will follow for calving, health care, nutrition, grazing, pasture management and other organic dairy activities.

    • A list of each substance used as a production or handling input, including its origin.

    • A list of techniques we will use to measure and monitor our performance against the plan.

    • A record-keeping system that is used to preserve the identity of organic products from the point of certification through delivery to the customer.

    • A description of the management practices and physical barriers established to prevent contamination of organic products. 

    • A plan describing practices used to manage water, biodiversity, and soil.

    • A commitment to water quality monitoring for nitrogen and phosphorous to help ensure that the farm is not contributing to pollution of neighboring water bodies. 

Our farm plan also outlines the objectives of bio monitoring. It includes:

    • Increasing average feed from pastures – This includes increasing feed quantity, quality of feed, and variety of feed; and extending the grazing season longer into colder months.

    • Improving carbon sequestration – The soil holds significant carbon. As we build organic matter, we sequester increased carbon in the soil. A healthy perennial pasture stores large amounts of carbon in its soil.

    • Increasing water retention – As soil and plant life become healthier and soil is covered, the amount of water needed from irrigation decreases.

    • Reducing energy use – In all operations our goal is to minimize the use of energy from nonrenewable sources.

Our OSP, plus other required documents, form the basis of our re-certification request each year. It’s important to note that our internal record-keeping process goes beyond what is required by the USDA and is consistent with our desire to protect the integrity of our farm and its organic status. Throughout the year, we monitor and collect data on birthing, soil, plants, grazing, feeding, water usage and trends, animal health, employee satisfaction, farm productivity, profitability, and more. This “holistic” evaluation ensures triple bottom line results — people, planet, and profit — that go far beyond organic standards. By regularly monitoring all farm management processes, we can pinpoint the trends that most affect our pastures, our herds, and our production of high-quality organic milk and other dairy products.

Between our own internal quality control systems and extensive record-keeping, and the oversight and enforcement of the USDA, our farm is held closely accountable to meeting the highest standards for milk quality, animal welfare, and environmental stewardship.

 

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