East Coast Organic Milk shut its doors last week. Launched in 2012, this initiative has been a work in progress for a number of years. It was nursed infancy in the pastures along Highway 1 in Grand Pré with the Mentink’s organic cows in the early 1990s.
An organic farming system has integrity because all the steps along the way protect and support the organic crop or product. For East Coast Organic Milk some of the steps that had to be considered were specific trucks for organic farm milk pick-up; a separate pasteurizing process; transitioning grain fields to organically managed grain; growing grass instead of corn. These pieces were thought through and developed over the course of many years.
East Coast Organic Milk farmers made the commitment to transition their farms long before ECO milk hit the shelves a year and a half ago. They were working towards a unique product that could get a price that represented the value and work of organic farming systems. When East Coast Organic Milk hit the shelves last year it meant that they were no longer building these beautiful healthy farms and pouring their milk into the conventionally-farmed milk system, it was now possible to sell their milk for what it was, an organic product with a label. Their faith that East Coast Organic Milk would one day happen is what made it possible to even consider creating the product.
One of the reasons ECO milk has had to ‘stall operations’ is the presence of Nielsen’s organic milk, an Agropur product, based in Quebec, and launched in Nova Scotia grocery stores within weeks of the ECO milk launch date in 2012. Better able to afford prime grocery store real estate, and a cheaper deal for customers because of Agropur’s economy of scale, Nielsen’s cheaper organic milk has contributed to East Coast Organic Milk’s demise. Yuck.
The regional network for organic farming, ACORN, has a tagline which is “Local and Organic, better together!”. I love that. It summarizes the powerful synergy that supporting local economy and healthy natural systems can and should have. Organic farmers in Nova Scotia continue to act everyday with a tremendous faith in the future; let’s continue to put our $ where our mouth is.