The Greenbergs of Stratford, Wisconsin

Most organic dairy farms are relatively small operations, averaging about 50 cows. However, a handful of exemplary producers are proving that you can farm on a larger scale without compromising on environmental stewardship, humane animal husbandry, or organic ethics. The Greenberg farm, in Stratford, Wisconsin, is just one of those operations.

Jim and Jackie Greenberg, along with their three children, operate a 500-cow dairy in north-central Wisconsin. Their 2000 acres is mostly broken up into dozens of paddocks with miles of permanent fencing, farm lanes, and water lines.

“Lanes are the most critical thing,” says Jim Greenberg. “Mud is a problem. It causes of hoof and leg problems and contributes to mastitis.”

The Greenberg farm has made considerable investments, over the years, hauling in crushed stone to maintain their lanes. “I have more miles to maintain here than the county highway department,” Jim jokes.

The Greenbergs started converting to pasture in 1997 and completed their conversion to organic in 2002. Their milk is purchased by Dean Foods, which markets it under the Horizon label. Like many ecological farmers, they made the switch before there was a premium organic market available to them. “When we were in confinement farming, and feeding a high-production ration, we had 2 to 3 twisted stomachs a week. With the cows on grass we have absolutely none. These cows are really healthy,” Jim states emphatically.

Humane animal husbandry was not the only reason the Greenbergs switched to a pasture-based production model. “We knew the cost of growing corn. We were losing thousands of tons of topsoil. It was destroying the environment,” Jim says.

The family is exceedingly proud of the way they are caring for their land today. “If we had kept farming in the high-production confinement method, there would be nothing left for future generations. We knew there had to be a better way.” According to Jim organic farming “done right” does require more labor. The farm employs 18, all working a 40-hour work week, a rarity in agriculture.

Most Cornucopia members who are dairy producers milk anywhere from 30 to 150 cows. But we are proud of the handful of members in Wisconsin, Colorado, California, Washington, and Oregon who are demonstrating you can milk hundreds of cows and not compromise on organic ethics.

“They are proving the corporate operators of the factory farms milking 3000-5000 cows wrong, said The Cornucopia Institute cofounder, Mark Kastel. “The organic regulations are scale-neutral. With proper management you can milk 500 cows, twice per day, and legitimately have them on pasture. But suggesting you can do that with 2000, 3000 or 4000 cows, milking three times a day is just “farming by press release.” According to Jim Greenberg, their cows walk up to 1.5 miles to get to fresh grass. How far would 2000 cows need to walk?

On behalf of the farmers and consumer-members of The Cornucopia Institute, a tip of the hat to the Greenberg family for their commitment to environmental excellence and organic integrity.

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