Stonyfield Farms continues its tradition of promoting and supporting organic farming with its Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-A-Wish program. More than 70 organic farms, all members of the Organic Valley cooperative, submitted videos detailing their ideas to advance organic farming and make a positive change on their own farms. A team of experts from Stonyfield and Organic Valley narrowed the list to six finalists based on their project’s “environmental impact and ability to improve the long-term viability of organic farming.” Over 10,000 consumers watched the videos and cast their votes, awarding the top $10,000 prize to the Teagues of North Carolina.
Modernization and efficiency resonated with voters. Two of the three top winners will use their grants to update outdated and inefficient equipment. George and Cherry Teague, the $10,000 grant winners, are building a new energy efficient feed mill to replace their current one, which is slow and runs primarily by hand. As the only organic feed mill in the state of North Carolina, this will allow them to process more organic grains for farmers in the southeast as well as provide more organic grain for local livestock growers and small farmers. Their hope is that their plan will increase the capacity for organic farming in their region, and make organic farming more attractive to the next generation of Teagues so they will continue to work on the farm.
Brent and Regina Beidler also grow organic grain, and run one of the few farms in Vermont that produces commercial quantities. Their $7,500 award will go toward upgrading their seed cleaning equipment, immediately improving the quality of their seeds and flour. This endeavor will also help their farm diversify and become more self-sufficient.
Peter and Kelly Mahaffy, of Coos Bay, Oregon, use waste from local seafood processors as their main source of fertilizer. They plan to use their $7,500 grant to manage odor issues by building a covered compost shed and adding a nutrient recycling system. This will create nutrient-rich organic compost for their fields and to be shared with the community.
Two of the three $2,000 award winners are planning to harness water resources to benefit their farms. Dana and Carol Shirk plan to put in an aquifer-fed pond on their Tuscola, Michigan farm to provide drinking water for their livestock and support pasture irrigation. In Alfred Station, New York, Jerry and Dotty Snyder will use their grant to help build another pond. This one will feed a hydro-electric generator that will power their farm.
The final $2,000 grant, awarded to Jon and Juli Bansen, will go toward improving the comfort and health of their cows. They plan to install a walk-through flytrap that vaccums flies off their cows. Evidently flies cause stress in cows, so fewer flies will help them increase their milk output and improve the quality.
Although Stonyfield supported the Grant-a-Wish program, consumer involvement determined the ultimate winners and where the funds will be spent. CE-Yo Gary Hirschberg is encouraged by the voter turnout. “It’s exciting that consumers are taking the time to get to know the farmers who grow their food and getting involved in ways like the Grant-a-Wish program to help organic agriculture innovate and thrive.”
Want to track the winners’ progress on their organic farming plans? Follow them at www.facebook.com/stonyfieldfarm.