Every month at Organic Valley’s headquarters, there is a P&W, which stands for Powwow, an event that circles around CEO George Siemon’s “State of the co-op” talk that updates everyone on the happenings of the co-op and the organic market in general. The P&W is an hour and half long and gathers about 500 employees down into cafe for the event. This month, I was also on the agenda. I spoke for a half hour on the enterprises and practices of my family’s farm and outlined Generation Organic, the project I am working on this summer and have been involved in since 2008. This month, the news was that Organic Valley projects a 13% growth rate for the year, which would put gross sales around $7 million. Organic Valley is growing very quickly, perhaps a little too quickly for some, as a few parts of the business end at the HQ need to be optimized. In a nut shell, there are cases of work overlap. As the company grows, it will have to streamline and become more efficient.
I am working on a bunch of projects. Today, we laid out the framework for a video contest for our Gen-O farmers. We want our farmers to make a fun, original video about their farm, a day of chores, or something that makes their situation different than other farms. It would act as a marketing tool for co-op and as a chance for our young Gen-O farmers to get some publicity about their farm. We want to offer a really cool first prize, something like a SLR digital camera or a Flipcam to create a large enough incentive for our farmers to make a video. The videos will be 2 to 4 minutes long. Transparency is a hot button topic in the food world, so what many companies are doing, namely Organic Valley and Stony Field, is creating bios and videos about their farmers to really connect eaters with their food, to demonstrate that there are real family farms providing for the company. When total transparency becomes the norm, Organic Valley will be ahead of the curve.
Last February, I was accepted to attend the TEDx “Changing the way we eat” conference in New York City. They just put out a request to attendees from last year asking them to submit applications to become a speaker for the 2012 conference. They want the speaker to highlight a project they are started or are involved in that has caused an impact on the way that a community eats. I am going to apply to be a speaker, citing the Generation Organic “Know your farmer, own your food, drive your future” bus tourfrom Fall 2010 as a project that caused the impact they desire. The Gen-O bus tour was a two week trip around the Northeast with stops mostly at college campuses to talk with students about the importance of knowing where their food comes from and knows who grows their food. We made over 8.2 million media impressions, so I think it stands a chance at winning the contents, especially with the “truck farmer” that spoke last year.
Speaking of the bus tour, we are moving forward with the West Coast Bus Tour for this fall. It leaves Wisconsin on September 28th and ends at the Bioneers conference on October 17th. The tour dovetails with Cornell’s Fall Break, so I will be on the last 7 or 8 days of bus. This works out nicely as I am one of the speakers at Bioneers on Friday, October 16. Generation Organic is gaining traction every day, and I get so excited to go into work I can hardly stand it.