All of us at Zweber Farms read many industry magazines, newspapers and publications. Some are dairy focused, some are organic focused and some are just general agriculture information.
The other day when I pulled Progressive Dairyman out of our mailbox, I was shocked to see the words “consider grazing as a means to profitability” on the front cover. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy reading the Progressive Dairyman. Their up to date coverage on industry issues and trends is very helpful. But when it came down to the articles on animal care or management, their focus really didn’t fit our operation. We are grazers and our needs and issues are very different than those who operate with barns.
Not only was there one article about grazing, the entire issue was dedicated to the topic. When you read Editor Walt Cooley’s intro, he explains why. He had just visited New Zealand where grazing is a very popular and successful dairy business model. His visit reminded him of a time when his father explained to him “what works for me does not work for everyone else”. How refreshing.
We have always thought of our farm as progressive, not regressive. Many naysayers of grazing and organic herds say we are just submitting to consumers’ fears and not taking advantage of the “latest” technology to be successful. “Why would we want to return to the 1950’s of farming?” they ask.
That is far from the truth. In fact today’s grazing herds employ many new advances in technology. Advances in herd genetics, pasture management, manure application, and environmental practices. This is not unlike “conventional” herds. Our technology may not be the same but it is still progressive and always moving forward. Any farmer who makes proactive changes to their operation to keep it sustainable for future generations is progressive in my book.
Grazing and organic dairying works for our animals, land and families. Does that mean that it is the only model? No way, and I know many “conventional” dairies that use very sound animal and environmental care. This is why it is so important for non-farmers to continue to ask the tough questions about where their food comes from. Having those conversations will continue to make us better food producers.
If we are open to farmers producing food in ways that “work for them” then we need to be open to non-farmers who want a choice in how their food is produced. Whether you consider yourself “green”, a “foodie”, a “coupon clipper” or a “green, foodie who clips coupons” (like me), you should continue to have the choice to buy what fits your food philosophy. As the attitudes in food production mature, and become more welcoming of all, the variety of food choices will also grow.
Thank you Progressive Dairyman for a great first issue of the year. Hopefully your example will encourage others in the industry to continue to encourage farmers to do what works for them.
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.