Focus on organic dairy: An integrated program for Pennsylvania producers

2006 Annual Report for LNE05-234

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $149,277.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Leslie Zuck
Pennsylvania Certified Organic

Focus on organic dairy: An integrated program for Pennsylvania producers


“Focus on Organic Dairy: An Integrated Program for Pennsylvania Producers” is a four-year SARE-funded project designed to fill an organic knowledge gap that often dissuades would-be organic dairy producers from taking the big step of transitioning to a new system of farm management. Led by an organic transition specialist from Pennsylvania Certified Organic, the project provides information and knowledge through guidance materials, newsletters, intensive workshops, hands-on field days, one-on-one phone and e-mail assistance, interaction with an Organic Dairy Advisory Panel, transitional farm visits, and trained support staff.

Significant individual follow-up contact encourages continued participation by farmers and allows us to track our milestones and performance targets, which focus on two groups of beneficiaries, specifically organic and transitioning dairy farmers. For transitioning organic farmers, we expect this project to result in an increase in at least 30 producers successfully meeting the requirements for organic certification. Once a farm is certified, the project will continue to educate and support the farmer with the expectation that at least 40 farmers will improve their knowledge of organic standards and practices, thereby increasing the likelihood of ongoing success.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Performance Target #1: Thirty (30) Pennsylvania dairy producers will complete the transition to organic production by the end of the project’s four-year period.

Performance Target #2: Forty (40) organic and transitioning dairy producers in Pennsylvania will improve their knowledge of organic production standards and practices.


(Note to the reader: attachments mentioned below are available from Northeast SARE.)

Year two of PCOs “Focus on Organic Dairy Program” was one where we began to see milestones completed and even exceeded. Though we are only halfway through our four-year grant period, our Organic Transition Specialist Patty Neiner has been extremely busy connecting with new and transitioning farmers. Patty or another dairy program specialist attended 24 field days and workshops in 2006, where she presented information about the program and answered questions about the process of transitioning to organic dairying. These events typically consisted of around 20 people for a total of approximately 480 people and are listed below. (Milestone #1).

1/10/06 Organic Dairy Meeting, Blair County, PA
1/11/06 Organic Dairy Meeting, Somerset County, PA
1/17/06 Organic Dairy Meeting, Indiana County, PA
1/18/06 Organic Dairy Meeting, Westmoreland County, PA
1/25-1/26 Lancaster Eco-Farm Days, Lancaster County, PA
1/31/06 Horizon Organic Dairy Farmers Meeting, Somerset County, PA
2/24-2/26 Farming With Values That Last Conference, Westmoreland County, PA
2/27/06 Introduction to Organic Crop Production, Clinton County, PA
3/20/06 NOFA-NJ Dairy Intensive Training, Pittstown, NJ
5/23/06 Organic Valley Dairy Meeting, Mifflin County, PA
7/19/06 PCO-sponsored Organic Dairying Field Day at Ore Bank Farm, Mifflin County, PA
7/20/06 Dairy Marketing Service Dairy Meeting, Bradford County, PA
7/24/06 Dairy Marketing Service Dairy Meeting, Union County, PA
7/24/06 Clinton County Extension Meeting on Organic Dairy, Clinton County, PA
7/25/06 Lancaster Ag Field Day, Lancaster County, PA
7/27/06 Dairy Marketing Services Dairy Meeting, Lancaster County, PA
7/27/06 Barn Meeting with Dr. Detloff, Union County, PA
8/16/06 Field Day at Daniel Lapp’s Farm (PCO-certified dairy), Lancaster County, PA
8/23/06 Organic Farm Field Day at PCO-certified Kore Yoder Farm, Union County, PA
9/21/06 John Esh Pasture Walk, Lancaster County, PA
10/18/06 Samuel Fisher Pasture Walk, Lancaster County, PA
10/19/06 PA Women In Agriculture Dairy Field Day, Bradford County, PA
10/20/06 PA Project Grass Conference, Lycoming County, PA
11/4/06 New and Beginning Farmers Workshop, Lancaster County, PA

PCO also educated farmers, potential inspectors, and others about organic dairy production through several workshops and on-farm field days. In addition to the approximately 460 people educated on organic dairying by Patty Neiner, PCO’s annual meeting included several presentations geared toward transitioning and organic dairy farmers. Speakers included keynoter Kathy Arnold, an organic dairy farmer and coeditor of NODPA (Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance) News, Dr. Linda Tikofsky, DVM, and Dr. Robert van Saun, a specialist in grazing ruminants. Approximately 100 people attended the PCO annual meeting. See Attachment 1 for the full program. (Milestone #2)

On July 19, 2006, the PCO organic dairy program specialist spoke at the PCO-sponsored field day entitled, “Organic Dairying” at the farm of a PCO-certified dairy producer (Ore Bank Farm in Mifflin County, PA). During this field day, the PCO organic dairy program specialist was one of several speakers to hold discussions on various topics relating to organic dairying, including individual farmer experiences in organic herd and pasture management and organic certification. The event attracted approximately 70 attendees. For pictures of organic-dairying events, see Attachment 2 (Milestone #2)

PCO continues to reach both transitioning and organic dairy farmers through our bimonthly newsletter, Organic Dairy Matters (Attachment 3). This publication has received positive feedback from the organic dairy farming community, and currently is sent to 724 subscribers. In addition, PCO’s quarterly newsletter, Organic Matters, reaches 650 subscribers and included several dairy-related articles in 2006, which are included in Attachment 4. (Milestone #3)

In 2006, 184 dairy producers requested and received information packets about organic certification, out of a total 454 information requests. It was truly a record year for PCO in terms of numbers of new and transitioning farmers requesting information and farm visits from the organic transition specialist. The Organic Dairy Advisory Panel is in the process of being assembled, though the organic transition specialist has referred several new farmers to seasoned organic dairy farmers to answer production questions. (Milestone #4)

Twenty-three (23) transitioning farmers requested and received a transitional farm visit in 2006. In 2005, eleven (11) farmers received visits from the organic transition specialist, bringing the total since April 2005 to thirty-four (34) farm visits. (Milestone #5)

Mail, phone, or e-mail surveys regarding the program’s effectiveness are still in development, and a survey template is being created that the organic transition specialist will be able to distribute at her dairy events (where she gives a presentation or workshop). (Milestone #6)

In 2005, 14 dairy farmers submitted their paperwork with PCO for organic certification. In 2006, 35 dairy farmers submitted their paperwork with PCO, bringing the total to 49 dairy farmers since the program’s inception in April 2005. This exceeds our stated goal of thirty (30) new applications. (Milestone #7)

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

In 2006, 35 Pennsylvania and New York dairy producers applied for organic dairy certification and 28 of these applicants completed the transition to organic production and have become certified. Combined with the seven (7) Pennsylvania dairy producers who became certified in the time period between April 1, 2005 and December 31, 2005, a total of 35 dairy producers have been certified. This number exceeds the thirty (30) stated in Performance Target #1.

It is difficult to calculate an exact number of organic and transitioning dairy producers who have improved their knowledge of organic production standards and practices because some may have attended several PCO dairy-related events in 2006. However, we estimate that several hundred organic and transitioning producers have improved their organic dairy knowledge and intend to further verify these numbers over the coming year through mail, email, or phone surveys. (Performance Target #2)

Attachments: (Hard Copy mailed 3/16/07)
- Attachment 1: 2006 PCO Annual Meeting Program
- Attachment 2: Pictures from several 2006 organic dairy-related events
- Attachment 3: Copies of 2006 Organic Dairy Matters (5 issues)
- Attachment 4: Copies of 2006 Organic Matters: Summer and Winter/Spring issue (2 issues)