Horizon Organic Recognizes HOPE Award Winner

NEW YORK - Earlier today in a ceremony at the annual Farm Aid® benefit event, Horizon Organic honored one of the company’s family farmer partners, Jim and
calendar icon 10 September 2007
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Organic dairy

The award was established by Horizon Organic to pay tribute to and congratulate their family farmers who have not only navigated the challenges of transitioning to organic but who have also served as a model for other organic farmers. Horizon Organic is a proud supporter of Farm Aid’s mission to keep family farmers on their land and producing food in a way that is sustainable for their livelihood, the animals they care for and the planet.

In presenting the Youngs with this honor, Horizon Organic acknowledged the strength of character and hard work that goes into organic farming and encouraged others to embark on the same course. In addition to receiving the award, Jim, Toni, and their three children received an all-expenses-paid trip to the Farm Aid benefit concert and an American Express® gift card.

Jim Young is a third-generation dairy farmer on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family. In seven years, he has not missed one milking on his farm. When he learned his family had won the award, and the trip to New York, Jim was a little concerned about leaving the cows to be milked by someone else. He is, however, looking forward to the trip and is leaving the cows in the hands of a trustworthy brother.

“Farmer partners like the Young family allow Horizon Organic to remain true to its commitment to provide high-quality organic foods to as many people as possible,” said Jule Taylor, vice president of dairy operations for Horizon Organic. “Their dedication, hard work and commitment to sustainable and humane farming practices make them role models for farmers — both organic and conventional — everywhere.”

Jim is a very humble man who gives all of the credit to his family. His children are very involved in all aspects of the farm. Adam, age 15, and Zach, age 10, along with Jim’s assistance, make the management decisions for the crops they harvest to feed their cows. Morgan, age 13, is in charge of the cattle genetics and helps make breeding decisions for the herd.

“I’m still amazed we’ve been awarded the HOPE Award,” Jim said. “It’s a very exciting honor for our family.”

The Youngs began thinking about making the switch to organic in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2000 when they formally began the transition. When Jim attended a meeting in the spring of 2000, he came to the realization his farm could remain a family farm through becoming organic.

“Fortunately, the possibility of becoming an organic farm came along,” Jim said. “I don’t know if we would have been able to keep farming otherwise.”

The benefits far outweighed the challenges associated with organic transition. The switch, along with higher organic pay prices, allowed the Youngs to invest in equipment they needed to become self-sufficient. This meant they no longer had to purchase feed, but could grow it on their own land, harvest it, and process it themselves. The Youngs believe this is one of the reasons their herd health has improved over the last few years.

The Youngs milk just over 40 cows and raise their own youngstock, which helps the Youngs ensure the quality of their milk in the future. The Youngs manage 170 owned and 60 leased acres of organic pasture and cropland. The 60 leased acres are currently in crops and belong to the Youngs' neighbor who allows them to manage the land for no charge because he wants it to be maintained as organic.

Jim has successfully grown corn and other crops in an area where the growing season and soil has not previously allowed for this. Conventional and organic farmers from all over come to the farm to see Jim’s crops and talk to him about his success.

The dairy farm is truly a family business. All three children have a vested interest in organic dairy farming. Not only do they make key decisions every day on the farm, but Adam has already purchased several cows as a foundation for his own herd.

“I don’t know what I was thinking about at 15, but it wasn’t my own dairy,” Jim said.

They also take their beloved cows on the road. Morgan just won first place with her three-year-old, out of about 20 entries, at this summer’s St. Lawrence County Fair. Adam just recently showed one of the family’s two-year-olds at the New York State Fair and won first in the junior heifers, best junior udder in the state, and Adam was tapped as the Junior Master Showman for the state of New York.

Horizon Organic currently has 400 family-partners in its network and 100 farms in the process of transitioning to certified organic with the help of the HOPE program. Through the conversion process, HOPE provides dairy farmers with education and technical assistance about organic dairy farming practices as well as financial assistance during the final transition period.

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