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The Putney Food Co-op is the first retailer to officially join the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership’s efforts to support local organic dairy brands and organic dairy farms.Shown here, from left, are Putney Co-op Assistant Grocery Store Manager Jocelyn Lovering, Pete Miller of Miller Farm Milk of Vernon, one of the brands Co-op members are encouraged to purchase to help in this effort, and Putney Co-op Grocery Manager Kim Lefebvre.

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Putney Food Co-op is first retailer to join initiative to support local organic dairy brands, farms

PUTNEY—The Putney Food Co-op is the first retailer to officially join the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership’s efforts to support local organic dairy brands and organic dairy farms.

The Partnership, launched earlier this year through the efforts of Stonyfield Organic co-founder Gary Hirshberg, hopes to encourage consumers to increase weekly purchases of organic dairy brands with the goal of providing area dairy farms with the demand they need to remain financially viable.

Putney Food Co-op is the first retailer in the area to join the effort and commit to promoting organic dairy brands that include Butterworks Farm, Hawthorne Valley Farm, Miller Farm Milk, Organic Valley, Stonyfield Organic, and Strafford Organic Creamery.

“We have long supported organic agriculture and joining the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership is a logical extension of that support,” says Putney Co-op Grocery Manager Kim Lefebvre.

Lefebvre said the Co-op “welcomes this initiative, applauds its mission, and looks forward to helping organic dairy farmers in Vermont and beyond, as we encourage our members to buy brands that rely on these farms for organic milk and other dairy products.”

As part of its role in the Partnership, the Putney Co-op encourages its members to purchase one-quarter of their weekly dairy products from participating local organic brands and to pledge to that effect on the Partnership’s website, at saveorganicfamilyfarms.org.

More than 2,500 consumers have taken the pledge to date, says Olga Moriarty, Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership executive director.

Putney Food Co-op, founded in 1941, is a community-owned marketplace offering natural and organic foods, fresh and local organic produce, organic and humanely raised local meats, poultry, eggs, and Vermont dairy products, in support of local farms and businesses. It is one of the oldest food co-ops in the United States.

Lending a hand to organic family farms

In the fall of 2021, 135 organic family farms across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and eastern New York received the sudden news that Horizon and Maple Hill Creamery were terminating their purchase contracts, effective in early 2023.

The news put these farms, many of whom have been in business for generations, at serious risk of closure unless they found alternate outlets.

In early January, the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, a first-of-its-kind campaign in partnership with the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association (MOFGA), was created to help solve the crisis of disappearing family farms in New England.

The Partnership, a collaboration of farmers, processors, retailers, activists, and government agencies, invites consumers to pledge to purchase at least one-fourth of their weekly organic dairy purchases from brands that have committed to sourcing their dairy from Northeast organic family farmers.

A central goal of the effort, according to the Partnership, is to increase demand for dairy produced in the Northeast, creating market stability to help at-risk farms, and build greater food system resilience for the future.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #658 (Wednesday, April 6, 2022). This story appeared on page A3.

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