Ever pondered about the vital link in our food chain? Jaclyn Cardin, the Chief Brand Officer at Cropp Cooperative, joins us to unravel the essence of supporting Organic Valley - a brand that stands at the core of our food system. In an eye-opening discussion, Jaclyn paints the picture of Organic Valley's cooperative, operated and owned by humble family farmers, playing a crucial role in keeping these farms afloat. She unfolds the campaign "Protecting Where Your Food Choices Come From" and how ethically sourced, organic dairy safeguards over half a million acres of certified organic pasture land. You'll be thrilled to hear about her unique experience of bringing the farm to Rockefeller Center, New York City, showcasing that organic dairy, when done right, can be a sustainable solution for us all.
We've all heard of food stories, but, have you ever connected with your food through a farmer's story? Organic Valley's unique campaign aims to bridge consumers and farmers through the power of storytelling. Jaclyn shares the innovative use of social media platforms and farm tours that create an intimate connection between people and their food. Sparing no efforts, Organic Valley aims to position organic dairy as part of the climate solution and not the climate crisis, and how each one of us plays a role in this. Tune in to discover the profound connection to the source of our food, the survival odds of small family farms, the importance of sustainability and biodiversity, and how your choices as a consumer can shape the future of our food systems.
Welcome to Lost in the Supermarket. Today we're going to focus on, in my opinion, what the most important link in the food chain is, and it starts at the farm, with the farmer. With me is Jaclyn Cardin, the cheap brand officer at Cropp Cooperative. You better know them as Organic Valley brand. She oversees the creative, the communications, digital consumer insights, innovation, omnichannel marketing and marketing operations. Jaclyn, when do you have time to sleep? I'll tell you. It's a pleasure to have you here and I really want to talk first about what Organic Valley is, how it operates and why it's important for retailers and consumers to really support Organic Valley brand.Jaclyn:
Yeah, thank you, and thanks for having me on today. Organic Valley is an organic dairy cooperative. We are the largest organic dairy cooperative in the world and one of the largest consumer brands of organic. Organic Valley is all we do we're an organic dairy meat, eggs, cheese, butter, milk pretty much all your grocery store staples and what makes Organic Valley so special is that it comes from 1600 small organic family farms. What's really different about Organic Valley and what I say is we're like the gem of the food system is that we are a billion dollar organic dairy cooperative, but we're owned and operated and run by our small family farmers. So we have farms in 36 states across the country with an average herd size of just under 80 cows so really still very small, especially in today's landscape of farming and so when you purchase Organic Valley, you know that your dollars are going directly back to making sure that those farms continue to stay viable, not only for today, but for future generations as well.Phil:
So you know, I know you have this new campaign protecting where your food choices come from. Tell us about that.Jaclyn:
Sure. So there's often a one sided view in animal agriculture, and we're hearing it more and more often that there's this perceived need to reduce dairy and meat consumption in order to lower the carbon footprint or in order to treat the planet better or make the more sustainable choice. But the whole idea behind protecting where your food comes from is to be able to offer another view at that right and show what ethically sourced, organic dairy from small family farms really looks like. We've done, you know, a lot of surveys with our own consumers and with broader consumer groups, you know, throughout the United States and asking people how important is sustainability, how important is knowing where your food comes from, and upwards of 80% of people just told us last month that it is important for them to know where their food comes from, though fewer than two and five people have actually been to a farm, and so the idea of protecting where your food comes from is to show what it means when you do pull Organic Valley off the shelf. We, as a cooperative, protect over over a half a million acres of certified organic pasture land, and so not only is that really great news for the farmers and for the local communities and for the animals that live on those acres. But there's such an outside impact that we don't talk about and that is the biodiverse ecosystems that are supported by organic farmland. So we're talking birds and bees and butterflies and salamanders and deer and all sorts of wildlife that that needs these organic systems to be able to continue to thrive, and people don't think about that. They don't make that direct connection when they're buying their milk or when they're buying their cheese or their eggs. But that's the beauty of organic dairy and Organic Valley is when you are supporting that it goes to. It's such a broad benefit that you're able to support just through how and where you purchase your milk.Phil:
Now you talk about you know people not being on the farm, not going to the farm. The other thing that you know I don't know if you know or not, but my grandfather is actually a dairy farmer. In fact, if you look over my right shoulder, there's a picture of my dad and one of my grandfather's milk trucks in New Jersey. So you know, I know what it's like to be on the farm and you know to your point. A lot of people haven't been on the farm. So what I think is really cool is you brought the farm to Rockefeller Center in New York. What did you do?Jaclyn:
Yeah, so we wanted to show people. You know, I don't again. Don't think people realize that there's a crisis happening in this country, right in front of our eyes. We've lost a hundred thousand family farms in the last decade, and once farms go away, they usually don't come back. It is really expensive and hard.Phil:
They turn into condos.Jaclyn:
Yeah, it's hard to start up a farm today, so preservation is key and we wanted to, you know, not bum people out, but let people know what it means to support a cooperative like ours and organic dairy. And knowing that it's going to be, you know, near impossible to bring every person to a farm that would like to see one, we decided we were going to bring the farm to New York City. So we were the exclusive food program partner for Climate Week this year, and we did that because, you know, dairy is often on the wrong side of the sustainability conversation, but Organic Valley is different and we wanted to partner with Climate Week to really showcase that organic dairy, done right, can be a great solution and a sustainable solution for consumers as well. And so, when we launched the pop-up farm, we worked with Rockefeller Center and an agency out there called Hangar Four and said how do we work together to create this farm-like setting in the middle of, you know, one of the busiest and most popular dairies in the world? And so we worked together and had, you know, the internal team working, my internal marketing team working with a couple different agency partners and Rock Center to create this beautiful pollinator garden, and so we brought in plants and different grasses that you would find native in the US and on many of our farms and we created these topiaries of you know, beautiful, like chickens and ducks and cows that were life-like. So we're kind of like emulating what it would be to be back on an organic farm. And then we brought in a bunch of our farmer members so I think there are about eight of them there and they did different demonstrations. So we knew we couldn't bring a real live animals. That wouldn't be fair to the animals to bring them into the middle of the city. So we had, like this topiary cow that you could actually milk. We made it functional so people could learn how to milk. We brought in an antique tractor so people would get up on the tractor and see what it is to, you know, ride on a tractor and then throughout all the gardens we had lots of different signage kind of explaining why, you know, sustainability is important and how Organic Valley is addressing sustainability and what it really truly means to buy organic and how that helps to preserve, you know, diverse ecosystems beyond just having high animal care standards for the dairy producing animals on a farm. So it was really incredible. We were overwhelmed and blown away by the response. So many people just stopped by. They wanted to talk to the farmers. I think the farmers felt awesome about just getting to meet so many consumers, and that direct connection is so incredibly powerful Every time you see it. I think it's really cool for people to meet the people who are actually producing the milk that they're buying off the store shelves. So we met a lot of people that have said we've been buying your products for years. Your products are the best, and we've met a lot of people who were new to the brand too. So it was really just this great experience where, you know, a lot of people made the comment this actually feels like a farm. I can't believe you guys were able to pull this off, and it was really One thing. That was just so cool and unexpected and kind of proved the point better than any words is that after we planted the pollinator garden, within 24 hours it was teeming with bees, and if anybody's a lot of time in New York City you don't find a lot of bees. I lived there for years and that is not one thing. I don't think bees are something I saw much of in those years, and so it was just really incredible and it was unmissable it was there were hundreds of bees, if not more, buzzing around, so that was really really cool to see, and I think for me there's power in that right to just say not everyone's going to go out and start an organic farm and preserve hundreds of thousands of organic farmland, but you can do a lot of this in your own backyard and if we all do it together, we can start to really protect our land and where our food comes from?Phil:
So, besides the takeaway of the bees, which was surprising, what else do you learn from some of the consumers that came up that you never even thought about before? But hearing it direct from the consumer, you said wow, we really need to focus on this.Jaclyn:
I think just how much people are starting to think about sustainability in a bigger way. You know, the Organic Valley has been around for 35 years and the people who founded and the farmers and the staff who founded Organic Valley all those years ago were so ahead of their time. And I think at this point in time consumers have really caught up in understanding that you get what you pay for and, when it comes to food, you know your dollars can go to directly support the kind of food system that I think many of us wish to see not only more of today but into the future. And so there was just so much more conversation around people understanding the value of their dollars when they buy Organic Valley. Everyone will always say you know it's Organic Valley is never going to be the deepest, but I think increasingly people understand why and what that's going to support. And it's not farms with, you know, 30,000 cows on them. These are small organic family farms in their local communities in many cases, where they're making this incredible impact for the entire environment and ecosystem around them.Phil:
So Organic Valley is supporting National Farmers Day. What are you doing to to spread that word to even more people and retailers, and farmers and consumers?Jaclyn:
Yeah, so you know, we brought the farm to New York City and figured we'd find a lot of people there that we wanted to get in this farm like setting. But we want to keep pushing that further. We've done a lot of farm tours on actual farms, live in person farm tours. But again, you're only going to reach so many people. So this year, on National Farmers Day, we wanted to create the world's biggest small farm live stream and so on Thursday from 7am till 7pm, we are going to be live streaming from several of our farms across the country, so it goes from coast to coast and throughout the day there's different programming so you can learn how to, you know, do chores with the farmer or what pasture is, or go on chore time at certain parts of the day and just really get to know where your food comes from. Ask questions of the farmers there'll be lots of, you know, live interaction with the comment section and just people having a chance to see a little bit more about where their food comes from, meet some of their farmers and, of course, the animals. I'm sure there'll be lots of star appearances by cows and chickens and who knows what else pigs, dogs, turkeys, birds.Phil:
So for a consumer that you know really wants to understand where their food comes from, understand farming Beyond. You know, October 12th, where you're having this fabulous live stream and I will be watching, is down the road. How do we keep this conversation going 365 days a year so people can learn how these small organic farms, what they're doing to protect the planet, to protect our health, really to understand where our food comes from?Jaclyn:
Yeah, thanks for that question. Our whole campaign which we just launched and this will go on for the foreseeable future probably at least a couple of years, if not longer is really about telling those stories and getting people more connected. So on our website we have a blog where we feature farmers on a very regular basis who have content rolling out weekly, if not at least a few times a month different aspects of the farm, sustainability, learning how to do some of your own homesteading, for example those types of things will continue to promote on our social feeds. We've been known for this for a long time and it's something that we just continue to do is we have a lot of young farmers, which is very cool, farmers that have taken over for the next generation of farming and they're also very social media savvy and they like to help spread the message. So we have our farmers are regularly on our socials, so just showing what they're doing on the farm, doing chores, so you can kind of ride along with them and do chores with them. Sometimes we do live streaming sunsets where the cows are walking up the lane, just to again kind of get closer. Sometimes we do live Q&A sessions, all sorts of different things so that people can get closer to the source of their food. And then we'll continue to do farm tours. We'll see how this one goes on farmers day. This is something that we'll think about doing again. We've done like FaceTime with your farmer before. We've had our farmers take over the call center and our customer service and that's always really fun when people call up to ask a question about their milk and a farmer actually answers the phone. So we love to do a lot of different surprise and delight things. It's rewarding for everyone. From a staffer, it's just incredible to see that consumer and farmer connection and see how important that is. From a farmer, I think it can get there's long days out there and sometimes farming. Our farmers love what they do, but it can be a lot of long days and it can feel sometimes probably a little bit thankless. So having consumers, you know, cheering them on and just generally being appreciative for the people who are growing their food, I think it goes a long way with the farmers. And then for the consumers, I think they just really enjoy talking to someone who's producing their food and asking them questions about what really goes into it, and so you can just expect a whole lot more of that from us going forward, whether it be getting more people on the physical farm, the live streams or any of the digital opportunities to be able to bring people closer to their food.Phil:
Well, congratulations. It's a great program, and one of the things that I love about Organic Valley is something that you've said that's on the website that organic dairy, done right, can be part of the climate solution and not the climate crisis. So congratulations, thanks for joining us today on Lost in the Supermarket, and here's to the farmer.Jaclyn:
All right, thank you.