The Majority of Dairies in Marin and Sonoma “Milksheds” are Now Organic

Less than 20 years ago, Marin’s Straus Family Creamery became the first certified organic dairy in the Western US. In Sonoma, Richard Hughes raises 190 Jerseys on 180 acres in West Marin, and became an organic producer for Straus Family Creamery in 2005, after a 40-year conventional dairy career. Today 75% of Marin County and 68% of Sonoma County dairies are certified organic or are in transition! Nowhere else, nor in any other crop, has organic become close to the majority of producers; usually it is under 10%. What are the socio-economic, environmental and other factors that have stood Marin and Sonoma dairying on its head? All is not rosy, however, as organic dairying is at a nationwide crisis. Due to greatly increased feed and other costs, many dairies are struggling; some going back to conventional. We will discuss these issues with organic dairy processors who purchase the milk, provide financial and technical assistance, and encourage dairies to convert to organic. We will also hear from a recent convert to organic dairying. If we want to effect real, substantive change in agriculture we will need to build on this historic success.

Presenters:

Mike Griffin, Organic Valley Family of Farms, Petaluma, CA;
Richard Hughes, Westview Jersey Dairy, Bodega, CA;
Albert Straus, Straus Family Creamery, Petaluma, CA.