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Organic Valley Expands Market With New Partnership

Organic Dairy Producer Starts Joint Venture With Dean Foods, Continues To Bring On Farmers

Organic Valley headquarters
This environmentally friendly $5.9 million barn-like structure is the new headquarters of the Organic Valley cooperative, seen Thursday, Aug. 19, 2004, in La Farge, Wis. Tara Walters/AP Photo

Organic Valley will begin a new partnership with international dairy distributor Dean Foods this year.

The joint venture will expand where the cooperative’s milk is sold, including non-traditional locations such as convenience store and gas stations, according to the organic farmer cooperative.

The new partnership may come at a good time. Organic Valley, headquartered in La Farge, experienced an oversupply of milk last year despite growing demand for organic foods.

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Organic Valley’s Media Relations Director Hans Eisenbeis said balancing supply and demand can be tricky.

“If you don’t sell it, the milk is going to spoil pretty fast, so working that kind of turnaround against this broader picture of growing the cooperative and bringing on farms who are transitioning from traditional to organic is a big challenge,” Eisenbeis said.

Eisenbeis said family farms continue to transition to organic as low prices for conventional milk make it hard for small operations to survive.

Despite last year’s oversupply, Organic Valley added 300 farms to their cooperative, bringing their membership to 2,000 farms.

“When we commit to bring farms into the cooperative, we honor that commitment whether we have an oversupply or whether we have an undersupply,” Eisenbeis said. “We are on this sort of grand mission in a three- to five-year plan to bring on more organic farmers and grow organics generally. So in the short term, we have these little hiccups of oversupply and then swinging all the way over to undersupply.”

And Eisenbeis said partnering with a big distributor like Dean is a win for the farmers in the cooperative.

“This is amazing that we can have a farmer with 72 cows sitting at the table with one of the world’s largest distributors of dairy, and cutting a deal with them and getting a fair price for their milk,” Eisenbeis said.

Organic Valley will start shipping products through Dean in July.