Thanks to Carrots ”˜N’ Cake, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the country and experience some pretty amazing events. One of my favorites– and perhaps the most significant and life-changing for me– took place this time last year.
Last June, I participated in Stonyfield’s Blogger Barnstorming Tour with three other bloggers. Stonyfield believes in all things organic, so they wanted us bloggers to see why it is so important, especially to the farmers, who work so hard to produce a quality product for them. Visiting the various farms and seeing firsthand what goes into organic dairy production and growing organic produce really showed me its value– from how it benefits our health and the environment to how it enhances the lives of the farmers and their animals. Here’s a recap of my experiences on the four-day Blogger Barnstorming Tour.
Food with the Farmer’s Face on It
You know what’s really cool? Eating fresh veggies out of a garden without washing them or worrying about what weird chemicals are on them. It’s also pretty neat when iceberg lettuce has an actual flavor to it!
Stonyfield Plant Tour
The final stop of the Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour was at the Stonyfield plant for a tour of the facilities. But, before we toured the plant, we ate breakfast! Not surprisingly, breakfast at Stonyfield included lots of yogurt! So much, in fact, that we did a taste-test of a bunch of flavors.
Conventional Versus Organic
If you’ve been reading along with my barnstorming adventures, you probably know quite a bit about organic dairy farming by now. Well, it’s time to tell you a little bit about conventional dairy farms. In addition to visiting four organic dairy farms in Vermont, we also visited one conventional farm.
The Health in the Soil Determines the Health Above the Soil
Near Lake Champlain, Vermont, just a few miles from the Canadian border, you will find the Choiniere Family Farm. It’s owned and operated by Guy (pronounced “ghee”) and Beth Choiniere. Their children, Mathieu and Hannah, also help out on the farm quite a bit.
Another one of the organic dairy farms that we visited was the Beidler Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vermont. The Beidlers own 35 cows who’s milk goes to Stonyfield, Organic Valley or Cabot, who cooperatively makes Organic Valley Vermont Cheddar Cheese.
Cows, Cows, Cows
Before the Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour, I didn’t think twice about cows. To be honest, I thought they were dirty, smelly animals. But, after “getting to know” a bunch of them, I think cows are adorable, sweet, and sort of “magical!”
A Full Day On The Farm
What a day! My brain is totally spinning, but in a very good way! In the past 48 hours, I’ve learned soooo much about organics, dairy farms, and farmers. I cannot wait to share it with all of you! It’ll likely take me a few days to recap everything, so please bear with me.
Cow Teats, Canada, and Miss Vermont
Most random blog post title ever, right?!? Needless to say, today is off to an exciting start! My morning started at 6:30 AM for an early morning milking at Fournier Farms in Swanton, Vermont. The cows are milked by machines, but I still had the opportunity to milk a cow the “old-fashioned” way.
Tonight was a real treat! We enjoyed dinner with three different organic farmers and their families- and let me tell you, there was no shortage of conversation this evening! We all had so much to talk about. Plus, I think the farmers wanted to know just as much about us bloggers as we wanted to know about them.
Barnstorming: The Basics
Holy cow! I’ve learned so much today about organics, farming, and cows today. It’s literally going to take me days and days to recap everything on my blog. There’s so much to tell ya about! With so much information to share, I figured it would be best to start my recap with the basics.
Waking Up in Vermont
I’m not going to lie, waking up in Vermont this morning was pretty sweet. I opened my eyes to gorgeous Lake Champlain right out my window. Ahhhh”¦ Anne and I got our run on first thing this morning. The weather was cool, but humid, and we did 4 miles in about 35 minutes.
Barnstorming: This Way!
The Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour is off to a great start! This morning, I drove up to Stonyfield’s corporate offices in Manchester, New Hampshire to meet our tour guides for the trip: Nancy Hirshberg, Vice President of Natural Resources, and Amy VanHaren, Social Media Manager.
Barnstorming We Will Go
Today’s the day! I’m heading to Vermont (and then New Hampshire) along with 3 other bloggers for the Stonyfield Barnstorming Tour. I’m totally jazzed for it! I’m not going to lie, I don’t know a lot about organics.
Stonyfield Blogger Barnstorming Tour
Barnstorming? Oh, yes, barnstorming! So, I have some exciting news! Back in April, I received an email inviting me to enter for a chance to attend the first ever Stonyfield Farm Barnstorming Tour.
So jealous of your experiences! But love reading about them 🙂 I’d love the opportunity to explore and tour a responsible company’s way of doing things!
I love Stoneyfield! I’m eating their yogurt as I type! I am racking up the my stoneyfield rewards hoping to get some free yogurt from them.
I remember the invitation to enter that Barnstorming Tour! I don’t think I did it because I was too busy at the time but I remember thinking it would be such a fun thing to do and I remember being happy that you ended up being chosen so I could read about it! 🙂
What a GREAT set of posts and recaps…thanks for relinking all of them.
The very 1st pic of you, in the green jacket, I love you in that pic! Great shot, and great experiences and opportunities.
Blogs can be SUCH powerful vehicles and can open so many doors! So happy you have had all these awesome things b/c of CNC! 🙂
That looks amazing! Did they invite you guys to tour? Can other people do it?
Awesome recaps! I’m going to go back and read some of them!
This is great! I just started following the blog about a month ago, so now I can catch up on your fav’s! Yeah for Stonyfield 🙂
I remember your barnstorming tour last year. It was very interesting.
I remember reading all about that last year!
Brainstorming tour sounds super cool! Did you win??
WOW! What amazing experiences! I’m going to read every single one of these posts!
I love when brands give bloggers the true love they deserve. Stonyfield has always been one of my favorite brands in terms of their products and brand identity. Very cool that they invited you up there for a “barnstorm.” Haven’t had time to read all the posts yet but looking forward to reading them through 🙂
I loved this series you did for the barnstorming adventure. It was actually the straw that broke the camels back for me in buying organic dairy which I’ve now been doing for a year b/c of this 🙂
Wow I just read all of these posts again and they are so interesting and share such important information…. I wish I could afford to buy organic more! It seems like it was an awesome and eye-openning trip for you!
So neat to see how everything is made/produced. I always find so much more respect for companies when they are true to what they say about being “natural”, “organic”, etc.
Love this recap, Tina!
I have seen Stonyfield featured in many documentaries and books…going through your amazing recaps really brought the company to life!
This is really cool. I;m relatively new to carrots n cake so I didn’t know that things like “barnstorming” even existed. Im glad to see that “Big Organic” like Michael Pollan would say–is trying to stay true to the “organic” message. Question: Do you think they “cleaned up” the place before the blogger/journalists arrived?
Tina-you are such a clear and calm writer. Its a pleasure to read your blog.
@@HilaryFleming: Reply from Stonyfield: Anytime we entertain visitors, we all clean up a bit. (In fact, we’re pretty sure the farmers themselves took special care to look their best during our visit!) However, during our trip we passed multiple farms who sell their milk to Stonyfield that were not expecting our visit and anyone can check in on many of our farms day-to-day to see what is taking place at our farm cam site: http://www.stonyfield.com/healthy-planet/organic-farming/farm-cam and on Jonathan Gates’ Bovine Bugle Blog: http://stonyfield.typepad.com/
@Tina: wow. thanks for taking the time to answer my comment. As a consumer of organic products, I’m glad to see that stonyfield values the customer enough to answer our questions. Thanks for the website info, I’ll definitely check that out.
That looks so fun! I love yogurt, so I would have been in heaven 🙂
I always buy organic milk and dairy products but I read a while ago that dairy cows are impregnated all the time so that they can continue to produce milk. Also if they have a male calf than he is usually just sent to the slaughter house for veal as a male dairy calf is clearly useless. Did they touch base on any of this information while you were there? I am curious as to how it works at real dairy farms and not just conventional ones. I am vegetarian but havent made the switch to vegan simply because I love dairy, but after reading about that it made me sad. I havent read through all the recaps yet so let me know if you did already address this question! Thank you!!
@Caitie: Reply from Stonyfield: We purchase our organic milk from Organic Valley/CROPP, a farmer-owned cooperative of over 1,300 dairy farmers. Humane animal treatment is a cornerstone of organic and CROPP farmers work to minimize cows’ stress in all areas – including breeding. Dairy farmers strive to have their cows calve (or have a calf) once a year. If a cow does not get pregnant, her milk production drops to such a level that it is not economically viable to keep her. The last 60 days of the pregnancy are a rest period for the cow in preparation for the birth of the calf. During that time she is not milked. The gestation period for a cow is the same as that for people-9 months. So if a cow gets pregnant on her first attempt at breeding she will milk on average for about 305 days out of the year with 60 days of rest.
And, all diary farmers would rather have a heifer calf than a bull calf so that they can grow their herd or sell it for a decent sum. No dairy farmer is pleased to have a cow birth a bull. As long as people buy veal, there will be bull calves sent to veal operations – organic and non-organic (although organic standards prohibit the inhumane practices of conventional veal production). Most bull calves are sold for slaughter as the farmers cannot afford to keep them as pets. More and more however, Organic Valley farmers are raising the males as steers for the organic meat market or selling them to other organic farmers that specialize in beef. As the market for organic beef grows, this will allow more farmers to keep the bull calves to raise for beef. We believe that family farmers in the U.S. and around the world hold the key to implementing sustainable agriculture is defines as that which is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, and humane.
For more information visit Organic Valley’s website here: http://www.organicvalley.coop/why-organic/humane-treatment/
I love Stonyfield’s! Can’t wait to hear all the new info you acquire.
I love stonyfield! rewards = amazing
My only question I have for Stonyfield, and this is actually a question, not a criticism, but why did they choose Wal Mart as one of their vendors? While I understand that bringing organic produce to the masses is important, is there also the thought that not participating in stores that are a little lacking in business ethics would be another stance organic vendors can take?? Wal Mart is known for bullying small farmers into lower prices so that products can fit into the “low price” model. But the reason corporate farms are cheap is because they skimp on environmental issues to fit in with this model. Small farmers are unable to do so, hence higher prices… that’s my only beef with stonyfield. and I am open to the idea that I’m completely misinformed as well. There is so much information out there, it’s hard to know what’s real and not.
Shouldn’t the consumer decide where she purchases her products? Perhaps if consumers chose to buy more organic products, Wal-Mart would be forced to provide more local organic options. As consumers are exposed to more products like Stonyfields; they will be more likely to consider those options. The market should decide; we shouldn’t be the moral police. I don’t like the notion that a company is considered evil just because it is profitable.
I don’t mean that they be moral police, I just mean that if they are deciding that they want to be organic as opposed to being a regular non organic yogurt company, maybe they would choose to continue that philosophy in choosing the retailer they choose. I don’t think the company is evil for trying to be profitable, I just try to choose companies (as a consumer who’s trying to be conscious of others in the world) who try to make an effort to be supportive of the local guy vs corporate farms that tend to detrimental to the environment. I only buy foods from local farmers markets or stores like Whole Foods/Earth Fare. They’re not perfect but they are making a conscious effort to provide an outlet for local farmers and companies with a supportive world mission statement. There is a tea company that buys their tea from certain farmers and makes sure that those farmers are getting a fair price for the products they are providing. I think this is most important when dealing with farmers in other countries like Mexico and other “poor/third world” type countries. I’d like to think that those people deserve to have a nice life just like me so I just make note, ok, I don’t support Wal mart, stonyfield sells their stuff at walmart, probably going to think twice about buying stonyfield. Not a moral judgment, just an observation so that I can be an informed consumer.
And I completely support your right as a consumer to make those choices. However, there are some of us that live in rural areas without a lot of options. If Stonyfield is commited to providing healthy options to consumers, limiting who it sells to limits many consumers from having that option at all. I live in an area where I would literally have to drive two hours to use some of the options you mention above.
@Wendi @ A Southern Yogi: @Slater: Reply from Stonyfield: Distributing our products to WalMart is just one more way that we can bring the benefits of organic food to mainstream shoppers. If organic is going to provide future generations with a healthier, safer way of life, organic must become mainstream. More people shop at WalMart than voted in the last U.S. election – twice as many, in fact. Increasing the awareness and appreciation of organics and family farming with this large audience is critical to the future growth of organics and the health of the planet. We believe that this is central to our mission. We believe that all of agriculture must change to organic practices in order to (a) rid the world of unnecessary, persistent and toxic agricultural chemicals, (b) reduce the carbon footprint of modern agricultural practices so as to minimize food production’s contribution to climate change and (c) provide a fair and sustainable livelihood for family farmers around the world. In order to fulfill this objective, we believe that we need to alter the food choices anywhere that food is bought and sold. Since WalMart is one of the world’s largest grocers, we do not feel that we, or future generations, can afford the luxury of ignoring the profound influence that they can have on agriculture and the food industry.
(Know too, that we respect that everyone chooses to shop in different locations and we work hard to offer our products in as many stores as possible – from WalMart to Whole Foods to grocery stores and small independent shops.)
The Barnstorming tour looks really interesting! I love Stonyfeld products!
You get to do the coolest things! I wish I could have gone there. I seriously eat my weight in Stoneyfield Yogurt.
Although I don’t eat too much dairy myself, it’s so interesting (and encouraging!) to hear about Stonyfield’s commitment to not only produce organic dairy but to also treat their cows well! 🙂
What cool pictures! I love this idea of reposting a great trip, for us newer readers 🙂
Great recap of your adventures, looks like you’ve had lots of fun!
When we start paying more attention to what goes into the food we eat an how the sales of that food affects the people who make ti, we’ll all be better for it.
Jealous of your travels!
One of my favorite things in the world is to eat fresh produce, fruit or veggies, straight off the farm/plant/tree 🙂
What an amazing experience! I use to live in Vermont and I just love it up there!
I’m a new reader, fresh to CnC. SO glad you posted this recap, it’s always great to see behind the scenes of food producers making an effort to have a positive impact on our health and our environment.
I remember reading about this last summer. It sounds like it was such a cool experience! I work on a farm this summer and it’s been so amazing to be so connected to my food.
I’m glad you re-posted this because I just started following your blog a few months ago. I love Stonyfield yogurt! It was really interesting to find out more about the farming.
I love baby cows but Ive had some bad experiances with older ones as a kid in India (chasing me LOL)
I like Stonyfield yogurt, especially their lowfat strawberry, mmm…I had some this morning with fresh raspberries!
their Greek yogurt is so goood but $! awww you know, I’m not a vegetarian even though I do eat loootsss of veggies and all, but seeing those cows really makes me melt and go awwww..haha, I think they’re cute too. This event seems really cool though, especially b/c it looks rather educational
Great recap for us who are newbies to the blog 🙂 Hope you get a chance to do the tour this summer!!