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Organic Dairy Workshop in Tomales

It was standing room only at the Tomales History Center for “Certifying Your Dairy Organic” on May 24. Twenty Marin and Sonoma dairies were represented, confirming the rumor that transition to organic dairy production is for real. The operations ranged from already certified dairies and those in transition, to conventionals looking seriously at converting their operations. Interested representatives from Clover Stornetta, Sonoma County Ag Commissioner, CCOF, Toby’s Trucking, and the Goldridge RCD showed up.

       The panel of experts was of all-star quality: Ray Green from the State Organic Board, Albert Straus from Straus Creamery, Anita Sauber and Jeffrey Stiles from the Marin Agricultural Commissioner’s Organic Certification program, Dan Giacomini from the USDA National Organic Program, and Elizabeth Whitlow from North Coast CCOF. The panelists didn’t flinch at taking on the the more controversial and troublesome aspects of organic certification like herd transition. Even though the Rule is partly contradictory and sometimes confusing, the panelists managed to clarify and explain to potential registrants how to negotiate the gray areas.

       Three and a half years ago, UCCE conducted a workshop on organic dairy certification and two dairymen showed up. Today's contrast in milk prices between conventional (low) and organic (high) is an indication of the explosive growth of the organic industry. The rush to get in the market is on, but producers need to be cautious about financing the transition and following the USDA guidelines that define Certified Organic, the consumer’s seal of confidence in the market. Expect to see more Marin dairies providing fine organic milk to our local market.