Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eggert Farms, Environmental Responsibility and Our Growing Regional Food Economy

In today’s Oregonian you may have read a story about Eggert Farms--the local family farms from which we buy our Pacific Village organic milk. The article by Scott Learn and Eric Mortenson focused on some of the challenges the farms have had with manure management and the environmental violations they received from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). These violations relate to the environmental impacts of runoff and in no way affect the quality or safety of the milk.

We just learned about these environmental violations and Eggert Farms’ response. The Eggerts acknowledge that while trying to create a model sustainable organic dairy they made mistakes due to their inexperience in dairy operations. They are taking these challenges seriously by meeting all of the required remedies by the ODA and taking extensive preventative measures. These measures have included installing new irrigation tile in an entire 80-acre pasture, installing berms and drainage ponds to prevent any runoff from the site and installing a drainage cut-off system. The violations required action and we know that Eggert Farms are taking that action. We will stay in close communication with Eggert Farms to make sure the remedies--and ongoing operations--are working to protect the environment.

We get about 85 percent of our milk from Country Lane Farm in Carlton, Oregon, and 15 percent from Rock Ridge and Mayfield Farms in Aurora, Oregon. All three are owned by Eggert Farms.

Eggert Farms is third party certified organic by Oregon Tilthcertification that includes ensuring that cows are pastured as often as possible. It is a challenge for all Western Oregon dairy farms to have their cows on pasture during the winter and spring when muddy fields can be dangerous for the cows. I live on a small working farm and as a cow owner, I can tell you that cows don’t like to go out in the rain, and like you and I, would rather stay nice and dry. The Eggerts are committed to the health and well-being of their cows and to meeting new organic standards that clarify the requirements for time on pasture and the percentage of feed that comes from pasture grazing. Animal Welfare Approved—one of the most stringent animal welfare certifiers—has certified Eggert Farms for its humane treatment of its cows.

Having a sustainable regional food economy that meets the growing demand for local organic foods means having a variety of farm sizes. Every farm or ranch, from the tiny berry farmer in Hillsboro to family cattle ranches in Central Oregon has an important role to play in meeting our regional food needs. For example, the Oregon strawberry crop appears to be on track to start in early June. We will be bringing in berries from three farms ranging in size from 15 to 55 acres. Similarly, Oregon enjoys a great diversity of organic dairy farms--from farms with a dozen cows to those with more than 1,000. Eggert Farms, an example of the diversity in Oregon’s dairy community, is an important part of providing local, organic milk at an affordable price.

The opinions expressed in the Oregonian article bring to light the complexities that exist in creating a robust local food economy while respecting the needs of the neighboring communities. Hopefully, what results from this set of challenges are improvements that will protect the environment and a dialogue that helps create a stronger local food economy and community as a whole.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the story, our Pacific Village milk or our sustainable practices. Just send me an e-mail to lisas@newseasonsmarket.com.

Lisa Sedlar, President and COO of New Seasons Market

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that I love New Seasons and appreciate how they support our local food community. That being said, I'm also very disappointed that Mr. Eggert has not been responsive to his neighbors over the years and has consistently violated the very laws/certifications that make his products attractive to consumers like myself. I feel misled and manipulated and embarrassed for having put my naive trust in yet another corporate entity that I hoped had my best interests at heart.

I do feel hopeful, however, that this issue, now having been brought to light, will be resolved and satisfactorily to boot! Where ethics and morality often fail, money will prevail and this unfortunate mess will surely hit the Eggerts in the pocketbook. I'm sure they will set this right!

Thank you for your timely response to the Oregonian article. I'm glad that New Seasons is not turning a blind eye to this inconsistency and I feel confident that it will be resolved in a way that will reinforce my high opinion of your stores.

info@consumerprotection.com said...

thanks for clarifying the article and speaking up for new seasons. new seasons has a reputation for healthy and local food, but in this instance the actions and your response arent entirely forthcoming to the nature of your store. Eggert is an owner of New Seasons is he not? Is he not the CEO or a ranking official of your principle food distributor, Pacific Foods?
Your store at least hints to the fact that you support local farmers, but this is really sort of nepotism isnt it? And just because the dairy has jumped through hoops to get what could be considered bogus "organic" and animal welfare designations even though they are state approved...it is these products that discredit the organic label and in fact make people think they are getting something they are not. If the animals in the dairy in the article even get to get on grass at all (seems pretty obvious characteristic of organic milk?)...they are still way out of balance for healthy happy cows to flourish and certainly the product does not support outside dairies as intimated.

Jem Toledo said...

New Seasons is the best of its kind!
This scenario is one similar to some of the marketing Whole Foods started doing when they got to be too big to legitimately maintain their organic credo. Your stores do enough good things, don't spin what is really going on with this dairy situation as that won't help your reputation at all. The comments on the Oregonian article are still being populated with hateful dialogue between neighbors and people that work or have sympathy towards the dairy and it is beyond getting ugly. I am not sure where there is any argument when the neighbors cant go outside without gasping and the state of Oregon has fined the dairies more than any other producer (ever). Organic shoppers don't have the patience for the dairies you use to learn how to run their operation right without polluting and still giving pasture access to their cows, and it also seems appropriate that they scale down their production to be responsible market producers. Maybe New Seasons can find another dairy or two to help supply a more responsible inventory for your stores then you will also be more true to your supply philosophy or healthy, local producers? thanks.

Tyler R said...

I see the tags didn't include words such as: violation, manure, neighbor abuse, nepotism, cover-up or disposal loopholes. Superficial appearances must be maintained, as per usual.

mom looking for real food said...

Support local farmers is all over New Seasons ads. Nice thought, but local is only better if...you can visit the producers to see what they are doing. I doubt there is an open invitation to the Eggerts dairies. Just being legally certified doesn't mean much anymore as the state and ODA are essentially in the pocket of the bigger producers. The director of the ODA is a piece of work in this regard...she only gives lip service to local food, just enough to keep the heat off her where not actually promoting or helping ease regulations for smaller responsible operations so they can compete and offer genuinely safe and nutritious food.

Antonia Xiao said...

Question: I have two young daughters ages 3 and 1. Are organic produce better for them? I have not fed my kids any fresh strawberries because I heard on Dr. Oz that a child can get allergic to them. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

Allison said...

Antonia,
It sounds like one of our staff nutritionists could help answer your questions. Please send a message to AskTheNutritionist@newseasonsmarket.com for help!
-Allison @ New Seasons Market

Stephan said...

I live in other part and you should know if almost all our food aren't fresh but frozen food. i can see farm area when I drive my car down to the street but it seems like almost all market and hypermarket near my house are not filled with their product.I hope there is new season there or at least I can have similar event there.