A Brief History
Like many great movements, Organic Meadow was born out of an urgent need, a powerful vision and persistent determination.
It all began in 1989 around a kitchen table on a farm near Dundalk, Ontario, when a group of about 30 organic grain farmers decided it was time to give back to the land and produce food the way it used to be done - without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. They were a unique mix of new converts from chemical farming and “dyed in the wool” environmentalists with one belief in common: the thing was not working and we would rebuild it, from the ground up.
There was an urgent need to have a means of getting crops to the market. The entire organic food business was only in its infancy at the time, with no reliable infrastructure. While regular farmers had many marketing options, the pioneers of organics were very much on their own.
Our founders had a radical vision: create a totally new food system that would deliver high-quality, certified organic, local food to consumers. A mill manager was hired, along with a part -time secretary, and OntarBio Organic Farmers’ Co-operative Inc. was in business, managed by a volunteer Board of Directors and a slew of committees.
The deal for co-operative members was plain and simple: OntarBio would take in grains at harvest, store and market them, deduct the operational costs and pay the balance out to the growers. At the time, they were desperately short of resources and business experience, launching into a very competitive grain industry. What held the co-operative together was the sense of belonging to something bigger than them - a fundamentally worthwhile and necessary endeavour. They felt that through our co-operative, they were protecting the way of life they cherished.
The co-op's economic prospects took a positive turn in 1995, when the pioneers of the organic dairy industry joined and launched one of the first organic dairy products in Canada - Country Meadow Cheese. A year later, Organic Meadow organic milk was launched. Shortly after, the Board made a bold move with two key business decisions: to guarantee member farmers a premium on all organic milk and to hire a professional marketing manager. The rest, as they say, is history.
Within a few months, contracts with major retailers were made and the co-op set out recruiting more organic farmers to expand the pool. That situation continues to this day. The Organic Meadow brand has progressed steadily, adding eggs in 1998 and building on the offering of organic dairy products toward a complete line of fluid milk, cultured products and ice cream. Being the “first in” brand has allowed Organic Meadow to become a national entity, with products in stores from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Today, Organic Meadow is one of the most successful organic farmers’ co-operatives in Canada, with over 160 members including over 100 family farms. Offering a full line of organic milk, dairy products, eggs and grains, the goal is simple: organic farmers across Canada supplying locally-raised organic products to Canadians.
Organic Meadow is actively working with producers across Canada to see that the vital element of its Mission Statement, “decreasing the distance…”, is fulfilled. The goal to unite as many farmers as possible under one brand, letting them share in the benefits of the national marketing efforts.
Organic Meadow works hard to preserve the family farm against the tide, assuring farmers that, by banding together and holding fast to their values, they can not only survive but flourish. Organic Meadow also works with family or co-operatively owned independent processors, who are hard-pressed to carry on in an era of rampant consolidation.
Together, Organic Meadow is achieving the dream that was born out of necessity around a farm kitchen table over 20 years ago.
“Proud to be third generation Manitoba farmers”