Stonyfield Organic, the country’s leading organic yogurt maker, has announced plans to help save at-risk Northeast organic dairy farms by inviting a number of them into their direct supply program during the coming months. The exact number of farms that will be brought on is unknown.
The move comes after more than 89 organic dairy farms from New York to Maine recently got notice that their contracts would be terminated by Horizon, owned by Danone North America. Those farms will be losing their contracts by next August.
Danone cited the distance of Northeast producers from the company’s manufacturing facilities, and higher transportation and fuel costs, as the reasons from dropping the farms.
From 2012 to 2021, Vermont has lost more than 390 individual dairy farms as food production has largely been ceded away from small farms and into larger operations.
“This is not something new for us. Supporting organic family farms has been at the heart of our DNA since the day Stonyfield started as an organic farming school in Wilton, N.H., back in 1983,” says Gary Hirshberg, co-founder and chief organic optimist. The company is still headquartered in New Hampshire, and makes most of its yogurt at its Londonderry facility.
“From our founding, we’ve always been dedicated to improving the health of people and our planet, and particularly to ensuring that family farmers are fully honored and supported,” he adds. “Over the decades, it has become clear that the very best way that we and our consumers can support Northeast family dairy farms is by helping them convert to organic production.
“The potential loss of 89 organic family farms would be a devastating loss for our region and our environment. When we heard about the contract terminations, we knew we had to step up and help as many farms as we possibly could, beginning with our initial commitment to take a group of these farms into our program. It’s a challenging time for the organic dairy market to absorb more farms, but we can’t just stand by and watch these farms in our own backyard go out of business.
“We will bring on the farms that we can, and we have launched an internal task force of senior company leaders to work alongside various state departments of agriculture, nonprofit organizations, retailers and institutional food customers to find ways to keep more of these farms alive and in business.”
Stonyfield supports more than 200 organic dairy farms in the Northeast through its milk supplier relationship with Organic Valley and its direct supply program in the region.