NOFA-NY Field Notes


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The Organic Dairy Transition Dream

Thank you to Robert Perry, our education team grain and field crops coordinator for writing this excellent blog.

The conventional milk prices’ diminishing return on the cost of production has been cause for a recent trend that sent dairy farmers who are on the fence about organic production scrambling for information and an organic transition plan for their farm. NOFA-NY has a technical assistance program that provides answers to some of the challenges confronting farmers today, and the dairy questions have been primarily, “I want to transition my dairy to organic.” While no quick fix exists for an average conventional farm, the one-to-three year timeline for transition creates a path for those serious in their goal. However, my first question to the caller is, “do you have a market?”

The certification process and the tools to develop an organic farm plan and tackle the application forms are what NOFA-NY Certified Organic LLC staff and the NOFA-NY INC technical assistance program do best. certification process

But finding the organic market for the individual farmers’ milk is a personal journey. There are numerous players with various incentives and regional determinations for pick-up and contracts to sign.  When the milk tank is full, the waiting list begins.


While the three-year chemical free transition on the land and the one-year organic management of the dairy herd are the basics, the hindsight and future planning are where the story goes from here. Many of the farms struggling to find a new market for their milk have had the opportunity to learn organic practices before the cows got out. Or perhaps never got out, on pasture that is. Coming to the table having watched the other guy down the road be organic, but never attending a regional organic dairy field day until today—when organic is the only hope of saving the family farm—echoes too often.

Planning for an organic dairy involves creating pasture, building fences, using organic and non-treated seeds, learning soil health and fertility without chemical fertilizers and herbicides. Coming to the market empty handed makes that process of change that much more challenging.

There is still time to learn and observe the organic system with our three upcoming dairy field days in NY. Click on the link to register:

dairy cows grazing

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