cows in field

Preparing for the Future of Organic Dairy: Strategies for Long-Term Sustainability

2019 NODPA Field Days

Theodore’s Restaurant, 3231 Seneca Turnpike, Canastota, NY

To say that the organic dairy industry has been undergoing great change over the past few years is quite an understatement. Looking back at the last few years, I see that the NODPA Field Days program titles contain words like ‘crisis’, ‘survival’ and ‘embracing change’. It’s been an unsettled time for dairy farm families, not knowing how to plan for both the present and future. As producers have come to realize that these current conditions may be the ‘new normal’, many are wondering if they can remain in farming, and remain viable. So, when the NODPA Field Days planning committee started designing the educational program, they realized that hearing from farmers that are looking forward and already building plans for their farms’ long term sustainability would be the way to go.

At this pivotal time for farmers, there is an old adage that seems to be particularly relevant: “If you’re given lemons, make lemonade!” The 19th NODPA Field Days program is being created to help farmers make the lemonade—assess their long term sustainability and create strategies to increase it whenever possible by thinking outside the box. Most importantly, we have a terrific line-up of presenters who have ‘been there, done that’ and have advice and important information to share about their experiences. And as the meeting closes, we hope that everyone will feel more optimistic about their farms’ futures.

The 19th Annual NODPA Field Days will be held in Canastota, the central New York town in Madison County, which is home to a growing population of Amish farmers who have been a significant force in the rehabilitation of farms and other often-distressed rural properties. According to an Elizabethtown College study, the 2016 Amish population in New York State was estimated at 18,360, an almost five-fold increase over the course of a quarter-century that ranks New York fourth in the U.S. behind Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. Amish businesses include family enterprises like store- and shop-keeping, construction, furniture building, bakeries, greenhouses, and crafts such as quilt-making. By contrast, according to John Troyer, 48, patriarch of the Fenner-based Troyers, in the 21-family Canastota Amish Settlement, organic farming for the production of milk and other dairy products, as well as raising grass-fed stock for sales of meat, represents a major and rapidly growing source of revenue. Two Amish family farms will be spotlighted during the farm tours. We will begin with a tour of the John Troyer Family Dairy Farms, on Thursday morning, September 26th, and will end Field Days with a tour of Nathan Weaver’s Aue Grunen Farm on Friday afternoon. The Troyer family operates both their grass based dairy and Troyers Country Store. Tour participants will hear about this family’s diversified operation and observe a number of their innovative farming practices, including their compost bedded pack barn.

A tour of Nathan Weaver’s grass based dairy will close out Field Days on Friday afternoon, and participants will see how Nathan, a leader in the grass-fed milk industry, puts his beliefs and theories into a highly successful grazing operation.

The NODPA Field Days educational program will include workshops that aim to prepare farmers for the realities of today’s organic dairy market. Looking at the current and future needs of the Grass fed Milk Market, Nathan Weaver kicks off the program with a presentation on how farmers can be prepared to meet the needs of this evolving market. He will focus on both production practices and trends that everyone will need to incorporate into their operations in order to remain competitive.

Klaas Martens and Roman Stoltzfoos will focus on how farmers can position their operations to best manage the current realities of organic dairy by describing strategies they employ for diversifying their farming operations and income streams. In addition, they will make the case for diversification at this time of low pay price and milk over supply.

Bright and early Friday morning, producers can grab some breakfast and join in the Producers-Only meeting where all producers can speak their minds and share information with their peers in a confidential setting. It is followed by a workshop that is focused on increasing efficiency on the farm. At a time when many smaller dairy farms are seeking to become more efficient and productive while also enhancing cow and labor friendly working and living conditions, Steven Weaver, organic dairy farmer and small milk parlor builder from Morrisville, NY, will review strategies for developing a cost-effective milking parlor system that effectively utilizes existing resources and can be planned as the first step in a long range improvement plan or as a one-time upgrade.

The second session will focus on enhancing herd health without breaking the bank. Organic dairy farmers Liz Bawden and Kathie Arnold, and Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) Dairy Specialist Jacki Perkins will share a wide variety of successful strategies they use on their farms or in consultation with organic farmers, to effectively enhance herd health. Treatments include the use of botanicals, tinctures, homeopathic remedies and off-the-shelf products. These strategies will include the use of species growing in your garden or ways to most effectively utilize off the shelf products.

Friday morning sessions will wrap up with an update on industry and policy news that all producers need to hear, and a short introduction to Nathan Weaver’s farm tour that starts directly after lunch.

This year, we are launching a new format for Thursday evening following the banquet and NODPA Annual meeting. Unlike in past years, we will not have just one keynote speaker, instead we will have a Keynote Presentation and Panel Discussion entitled Adapting to the New Realities of Organic Dairy: Where do we go from here? Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director, will set the stage by reviewing how the organic dairy industry arrived at its current situation and open the discussion about where to go from here. We’ve gathered a panel of organic dairy farmers that represent a wide variety of farming philosophies, practices, ages, cultural perspectives and geographic locations, but all with an abiding commitment to the integrity of the organic seal, who will share their thoughts on the new realities of the Organic Dairy Industry, and what they see as its future. The discussion will open up to all in attendance and everyone that would like to voice their thoughts will have time to do so. We are honored to gather such a distinguished and knowledgeable panel: Annie and Ryan Murray, Hidden Meadows Dairy, Cincinnatus, NY, Jim and Anne Phillips, Triple 3 Livestock, Marathon, NY, , Forrest Stricker, Spring Creek Farms, Wernersville, PA, Roman or Dwight Stoltzfoos, Spring Wood Dairy, Kinzers, PA, and Vaughn Sherman, Jerry Dell Farm, Dryden, NY.

The 19th Annual NODPA Field Days program will be filled with information sessions, discussions and educational workshops that focus on the important and timely issues facing all organic dairy farm families. In addition, we will have a full trade show, our annual social hour and banquet, featuring delicious local and organic food and NODPA’s Annual Meeting on Thursday evening.

Throughout the 2-day meeting, attendees will be able to visit the diverse trade show and will have many opportunities to meet new people and catch up with old friends. More information on the program will follow in the July NODPA News and online at, so for now SAVE THE DATE and begin planning to join us in September.

Are you interested in supporting NODPA as a sponsor, supporter or trade show participant? Look for Sponsorship and Trade Show information and opportunities in your email and mailboxes in the next couple of weeks. For more information or if you have questions about sponsoring or exhibiting at the 19th Annual NODPA Field Days, contact NODPA Field Days coordinator Nora Owens any time at or 413-772-0444.