Organic Farmers Celebrate Dairy Month in June

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By Tina Wright

moorefarmDairy farmers in central New York celebrate June as Dairy Month with parades and dairy promotions. This year, higher milk prices for dairy farmers and soaring demand for Greek-style yogurt should add some happy froth to their milkshakes. Moore Family Farm, an organic dairy farm in Lansing, will host an Organic Valley Farm Discovery Day on Saturday, June 21

from 11 am to 2 pm. The public is invited to meet the cows, see the pasture, and visit the family farm up-close and personal.

At GreenStar, shoppers have a wide choice of local and organic milk. In 2013, the dairy segment at GreenStar, which includes dairy, butter, and eggs (but not cheese), produced $587,575 in sales. Nearly two-thirds was locally sourced.

Organic Valley offers everything from organic whole milk to organic lactose-free milk. While Organic Valley is a national brand, most Organic Valley milk offered at GreenStar comes from local farms and is processed in local plants. And there is plenty of competition from local brands.

Lucienne Binkerd-Dale, the Grocery Assistant Manager in charge of the dairy department, said, "I've definitely seen in the last few years people wanting pasture [dairy products] and local. More people are going for the local milk. Ithaca Milk flies out of here." Formerly under the Meadow Creek label, Ithaca Milk is part of the Finger Lakes Farm group. They are bringing on new farms but can't keep up with demand for their un-homogenized "cream at the top" milk.

In the last few years, GreenStar has added new local labels Trinity Valley and Pittsford. Binkerd-Dale said, "Trinity Valley I brought in because the milk is low-temperature pasteurized." Some folks with lactose intolerance are finding that they can tolerate milk that has been low-temperature pasteurized, as the process leaves more digestion-aiding enzymes in the milk. The Pittsford brand of chocolate milk, available at the West-End and Dewitt Mall stores, is almost dangerously tasty. Hillcrest brand from Moravia in Cayuga County sells well, too. Evan's Farmhouse brand is GreenStar's only certified organic local offering (though, as mentioned earlier, most Organic Valley dairy products sold at GreenStar are produced locally or regionally).

Byrne Dairy, based in Syracuse, has been a dairy powerhouse in central New York for years. Old timers can remember the radio jingle, "Byrne Dairy milk is mighty fine," and many GreenStar members prefer milk in glass containers, a Byrne Dairy trademark from their days of home delivery.

The big national organic milk labels are Organic Valley and Horizon (Horizon is not offered at GreenStar). Many regional dairy pslayers are getting in the organic act now. After supplying and processing Wegmans' organic milk line, Upstate Niagara Cooperative is now selling organic milk under its own label, Upstate Farms, which is quite reasonably priced at GreenStar by the gallon.

As Upstate Niagara Cooperative is already producing an organic Greek-style yogurt for Wegman's, other organic Greek-style yogurts should be coming on line soon. GreenStar displays many varieties and brands of yogurt, butters, and ice cream.

Organic Valley has been aggressive in buying regional organic milk suppliers and expanding their supply. When Larry and Denise Moore went organic on their dairy farm in 2006, they chose Organic Valley because they liked the idea of a farmer-owned cooperative. Denise says, "Another reason that we decided to join Organic Valley was its transparency and its unique farmer-first business model."

Moore Family Farm is on Conlon Road in Lansing. They milk 40 to 50 cows with around 90 head total, including young stock. Their cow breeds are Holsteins, Jerseys, and, just lately, Milking Shorthorns. The Shorthorns add a dual-purpose angle by being a better beef breed. By cross-breeding Shorthorns with their Holsteins and Jerseys, the Moores hope to add better grazing ability to their herd. Denise Moore says that Shorthorns are great on pasture. "They really do like to stay outside. They are the first to head outside and the last to come in."

The Moore family owns 200 acres of farmland and rents another 120 acres, sharing an additional 100 acres of rented land with a neighboring organic farmer. Their cows graze pastures of clovers and grasses, with some Japanese millet, triticale, and oat plantings serving as supplemental pasture. To supply grain for their cows, they grow barley, triticale, oats, corn, and soybeans. While last year they were a little short on soy and purchased some, they aim to be self-sufficient and grow all their own cattle feed.

Why are they hosting the Organic Valley Farm Discovery Day on June 21? Denise replied, "I've done some demos at GreenStar. Often people have no idea that there are local organic dairy farms in the area. It's really nice to meet with people and talk with them."

Larry and Denise Moore have three daughters, two grown and one, a teenager, still at home. Their grandsons are young but already help out on the farm. Denise said, "Larry is a fourth-generation farmer. I am a first-generation farmer. I grew up in Endicott and always wanted to live on a farm, and each day I remember to be thankful that organic farming is our way of life."

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