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3 Reasons to Buy Organic Dairy

organic valley

The more I learn about farming, the more passionate I become about buying organic. In our current food system, buying organic is the only way to ensure your food does not contain GMOs, toxic & persistent pesticides, synthetic growth hormones or antibiotic-resistant bacteria. [Unless, of course, you are a farmer or truly know the farmer who grows or produces your food.]

Last weekend I had the opportunity to hear Emily Zweber, a dairy farmer and mom of three, talk about why organic food is important to her. Here were three of the reasons she gave for why her family chooses to farm organically:

  1. She feels like her kids are safer. Since the land, animal feed, and milk produced all meet organic standards, Emily doesn’t have to worry about her kids being exposed to toxic chemicals while they are running around her yard, drinking milk straight from the bucket, or out playing amongst the cows.
  2. She can make a better living. Emily is part of the Organic Valley Cooperative, which means that she and the other dairy farmers have a say in how their business is run. They also know what they’re going to earn for what they produce for the coming year, unlike conventional dairy farmers who have fixed expenses but unpredictable incomes because the price of their milk depends on the stock market and commodities trading.
  3. She believes in the humane treatment of cows. Emily’s cows graze on pasture whenever the weather permits, which means they are able to engage in natural cow behaviors and remain healthier than they would on a conventional farm.

What does an organic dairy farm really look like? See here for yourself:

Learn more about Zweber Family Farms here, or follow Emily’s blog to learn about everything from organic lawn care to why dairy farms smell.

*Note: I am fully aware that not everyone can afford to buy organic dairy. In fact, many Americans struggle to afford any healthy food at all. When I write posts like this, my objective is to raise awareness about modern farming and the alternatives to conventional factory-produced food that currently exist. If you can afford organic food, buying it will help reduce prices so that down the road, organic food and products will be more accessible to everyone.


  • Emily @ Zweber Family Farms
    June 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Thank you Amelia! It was great meeting you as well. I hope that we can meet in real life again soon! If your readers ever have questions about organics or organic farming, please feel free to send them my way. I love sharing our story and answering questions that people might have.

  • Amelia
    June 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks, Emily!

  • NYFarmer
    June 24, 2013 at 10:22 am

    The children of the conventional farmers are important too! Organic milk companies have been very aggressive in promoting their milk, often touting that their farmers live better and that they are better farmers. So often, when we have tried to speak with urban food groups as a regular small dairy farmers from NY (and 98% of our dairy farms are not certified organic), the urban groups dismiss us and tell me they only buy organic. Even on the cusp of the farm bill, as we fought for a bill that would provide at least some moderation in farm milk prices for the conventional farmers, we saw little support out of food movement groups who told us they prefer organic. As to “food justice”, we also heard that consumer groups in urban areas want their food to be reasonably priced (cheaper).
    We have seen great suffering in the dairy farm community during the past few years. Lost thousands more of farms that we can ill afford to lose with a march towards consolidation. Rather than talking of their friends and neighbors with respect, the organic marketers speak of us as people who leave toxic chemicals around the farm, who do not graze cows, who do not take care of our cows that are less healthy. Our in rural NY, the average farm size is 113 cows, smaller than the national average. There are thousands of grazing farms, many in the 30 to 60 cow range. Every cow is important to us. Many of us have chosen not to be organic because if a cow receives a single treatment she must be ejected from the herd. It is our choice to nurse cows back to health, discard the milk until a lab tests the milk as clean. For caring about our cows, we are punished many times over.
    As to organic farmers living better. In my area, like many of the regular dairy farmers, the handful of organic dairy farmers also do not have health insurance and live from milkcheck to milkcheck. Nobody that I know is getting rich being a farmer.
    For every story that is told of the organic dairy farmers, there are stories of other 98% of the farmers who have tended their lands for generations, who strive to keep developers out, who protect habitat and watersheds, who work other jobs to pay the land taxes and more. Its just that we never seem to catch a kind word from the consumer.
    I am glad that you like a good old fashioned cold glass of milk. But please remember that the other 98% of the dairy farmers strive to produce the best product possible.

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