I was thrilled to have been contacted to be part of a blogger group to tour
Birchwind Holsteins - The Vice Family Farm . We were met by the incredibly hospitable Debbie and Ron Vice.
The visit was arranged to give exposure to organic farming in Ontario. I had no preconceived ideas of what to expect and found that what I learned is so important for my family and also to share with others so that we all make conscious choices about what we're eating and drinking. The Vice Farm is part of a local cooperative called Organic Meadow . As a Co-operative, Organic Meadow provides a unique opportunity for organic farmers to collectively store, process and market organically-grown products including organic milk, organic dairy products, organic eggs and organic grains. Their goal is to unite small family farms under one brand, letting them share in the benefits of their marketing efforts. Organic Meadow is committed to ensuring fair, consistent financial returns to its farmers while maintaining quality at every stage, from soil to table.
We've all heard of and many use organic products but do we always know exactly what it means to be organic. Here's what I learned about becoming and maintaining an organic farm:
What makes organic milk certified organic?
1. The land farmed using conventional methods must go through a three-year transitional period during which time and from then after, no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides can be used, in order to clear the land of synthetic elements and restore it to its natural fertility.
2. Dairy cows must be fed feed produced under organic practices for 12 months before organic certification.
3. Livestock cannot be fed or treated with breeding and growth hormones.
4. Livestock must be provided with ample sized accommodations and with plenty of room to socialize.
5. Manure must be properly composted and used as a natural fertilizer.
6. Sustainable crop rotation must be practiced using crops that enrich the soil's fertility.
7. Detailed records must be kept. After the transition period has been completed, the farm is inspected by a third party certification agency as well as every year thereafter to ensure organic practices are maintained.
8. Certification doesn't end at the farm. Milk transporters and processors must be certified organic as well.
We met several of the cows and in particular, this one ready to calf anytime:
and next door is the nursery...
and where the calves hang out...
Ron spoke to the process of milking, processing and shipping of organic milk...
Time for lunch ...
Have you tried these President's Choice organic crackers? They're incredible with cheese; try them!!!
We went on the most incredible hayride to see a visually stunning landscape and learn about the nutrients added to organic fields. I admit I had no idea how cost intensive maintaining organic fields really is.
and back in time to see the cows going out to pasture.
Many of the farms in Ontario welcome visitors and trust me, your kids will love it and you'll be in awe of the dedication of our farmers to bring organics to our tables. I certainly have a new found respect for our farmers. They work long, hard hours and deserve our support!
Organic Week October 15-22, 2011