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It’s all about growing at Organic Valley

By Ann Knoedler

Sometimes good economic news comes from unlikely places — for example, La Farge (Vernon County), population a little more than 800.

That’s where Organic Valley built its 50,000-square-foot headquarters facility six years ago. And that’s where they just announced they are going to build an approximately $6.1 million, 33,000-square-foot addition. The addition will house a research and development lab, an area for employee wellness activities, and more office and meeting space.

Wieser Brothers General Contractors Inc., La Crescent, Minn., has been hired to provide construction services and Ollmann Ernest Architects, Belvidere, Ill., is the architect.

Just three years ago, Organic Valley completed construction of an 80,000-square-foot distribution warehouse in Cashton, just a half-hour drive north of La Farge. Cashton is another small rural community, population around 1,062.

They have an interesting history. The cooperative was formed in 1988 in response to the family farm crisis in the ’80s when farms were being auctioned off right and left. Their mission was (and is) to save family farms through organic farming. The co-op represents 1,630 organic dairy, soy and meat farmers in 33 states and four Canadian provinces.

To give you some perspective of how quickly they’ve grown in the last four years alone, the press release issued in 2006 announcing the Cashton project stated that “it represents over 750 farmers in 23 states.”

You’ve probably seen Organic Valley dairy and meat products in the grocery store. I have, but didn’t think much beyond that. It’s good to know that so many family farms are thriving because of this co-op success story, and that so many employment opportunities are made available in this corner of rural Wisconsin.

Ann Knoedler is the lead data reporter at The Daily Reporter. She can be reached at (414) 225-1822.

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