Thistle Hill Farm (Tarentaise Cheese)

Farm/Brand HeadquartersNorth Pomfret, VT
Market AreaNationwide, VT
Total Score1545

Read Cornucopia’s Thistle Hill Farm profile in our “Organic Innovators: Top-Rated Farmers You Can Trust” Dairy Campaign.

Thistle Hill Farm is a certified organic dairy farm located in North Pomfret, Vermont, owned and operated by John and Janine Putnam and their four children. The Putnams have been farming organically for over fifteen years, beginning with vegetables and beef, and culminating in organic cheese making. Other than incidental part time help, the family makes Thistle Hill Farm Tarentaise from the ground up. Every aspect of creating the cheese, from caring for the hay fields and pastures, bringing in the hay and caring for and milking the Jersey dairy cows is done on the farm by the Putnam family.

The closed herd of certified organic Jersey cows are fed only certified organic hay produced by the farm and certified organic grain. In the summer the cows are rotated through a series of small pastures to ensure that they are on new fresh grass every twelve hours. The barn contains comfort tie stalls where the cows are milked twice per day. During the summer, except during severe weather, the cows are never in the barn except for milking and their morning nap. Even during the winter, the cows are out every day “stretching their legs, soaking up the sun and socializing.” This brand’s products can be found nationwide at select specialty stores and in Vermont in particular.

TOTAL (possible score is 1600 plus extra credit) 1545
5-Cow Rating | Top-Rated
Farmstead dairies earn the most points. Corporations that have a history of skirting the organic rules receive the fewest.
Ownership structure
100Family farm
Farms that produce 100% of their milk receive the most points. Milk from "open market" or known confinement dairies receive the fewest.
Milk Supply
100Single farm
100% organic farms receive the most points. Split operations with conventional dairy on the same property receive the fewest.
Organic Production
100Brand only markets organic
Farms that completed the survey in detail received the most points.
Disclosure of Information for Verification
100Full disclosure
Points determined by integrity of the brand’s organic certifier.
Organic Certification
100Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF)
Animal Welfare Approved and Biodynamic certifications receive the most bonus points. Producers are not penalized for not having additional certifications beyond organic.
Other Labels/Standards
100Real Organic Project Certified
100% grass-fed with independent verification of standards
90Markets grassfed, and exceeds USDA percent intake requirements
No points are given for this but the information may be useful to certain consumers looking to avoid soy.
Soy Free Ration?
Sliding scale based on policies, enforcement, acreage/cow, days/year on pasture, and permissible exemption.
90Excellent pasture compliance
One time/day receives the most points. Two times per day is standard.
Times Milked
90Two times a day (standard protocol on legitimate organic dairies)
Lower cull rate scores better, with under 10% receiving the most points.
Cull/death Rate
100Very low cull rate
Farms with closed herds receive the most points. Farms that sell organic calves and buy conventional replacements receive the fewest.
100Closed herd
Standard practice is removing calves shortly after birth, with extra points given for unique ways of managing calves
75Removed shortly after birth (standard practice)
Farms that prohibit antibiotics receive the most points. Farms that allow young stock to receive antibiotics (under one year), receive the fewest.
Antibiotic Use
100No antibiotic use
No hormones is the standard, however some farms do use oxytocin for therapeutic purposes.
Hormone Usage
100No hormones used
Farmstead dairies (owner lives on-site) receive the most points. Fewer points are given as oversight declines.
Farm Support
100Single farm
All ingredients sourced from inside the organization or on the farm receives the highest points. Ingredients from confinement factory farms and/or imported ingredients receive the fewest.
Procurement of Ingredients
100No outside ingredients used
Various levels of extra credit given for 1) providing full organic systems plan, 2) providing details on all farms (multi-farm brands, details on largest five required), and 3) sourcing feed on-farm or domestically.
Extra Credit