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10/13/2011 9:23:00 AM
UP hosts organic farmer tour
Organic Valley photo
This bio-fueled farm bus made a stop at the University of Portland.
Organic Valley photo
This bio-fueled farm bus made a stop at the University of Portland.

A bio-fueled, muti-colored school bus rolled onto the campus of the University of Portland earlier this month, carrying a troupe of young organic farmers touting their trade.

The visit was part of Organic Valley’s Generation Organic 2011 “Who’s Your Farmer?” tour. Gathering at the dining hall, the farmers met students and encouraged them to consider their personal food choices. They also offered samples of organic produce.

Generation Organic is made up of farmers age 18 to 35. They represent a new generation of sustainable agriculture leaders who believe in the power of organic to change the world. The “Gen-O” farmers took a three-week national tour on a bus fueled by sustainably produced biofuels.

Organic Valley is a large cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands. It represents 1,643 farmers in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, and achieved $619 million in sales last year. Organic Valley currently has 51 farmer-owners and six processing plants in the Pacific Northwest, ensuring fewer miles from farm to table.

The visit of the bus was sponsored by UP's department of environmental science.
The university has pioneered some food and water issues, from hosting a three-day “Food for Thought” conference in March — which featured local and national leaders on food, including author Michael Pollan — to being the first college campus in the West to discontinue the sale of disposable plastic water bottles.

Bauccio Commons, the student dining hall, was expanded and renovated this fall and has reduced food waste by approximately 70 percent. Food service provider Bon Appétit uses primarily locally-sourced products and has reduced the amount of meat and cheese served, helping lower the university’s carbon footprint.
 
The on-campus organic Student-Led Unity Garden — SLUG — was recently doubled in size to help provide food for local families in need.

The Generation Organic crew includes young organic farmers hailing from the west coast, from towns such as Coos Bay and Scio. Others come from Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.  While many of these young farmers were born into organic farming —weeding gardens and tending calves as part of their daily chores—today, they are helping run their family’s organic farms by choice, from creating intensive rotational grazing systems, to applying sustainability, to overseeing production.

According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, the U.S. has lost approximately 4.5 million farms since 1935, and most of the 2.1 million farms that remain are operated by farmers with an average age of 57. In contrast, the average age of Organic Valley farmers is 44.  

“Generation Organic gives these young organic farmers an opportunity to share with other youth their vision for a better world,” said George Siemon, a founding farmer of Organic Valley. “These young people are the future of sustainable agriculture — their hard work and enthusiasm is inspirational to us all.”

After its Oregon visit, the bus headed south to UC Davis and Stanford.



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