“My goal for the project is to provide producers of different livestock species on varied-sized farms a reliable, economical, sustainable source of organic feed.” – George Teague
Dairy and livestock producers in North Carolina demand a local supply of organic feeds made from grains grown in fields within state lines. Most organic dairymen, whom are members of Organic Valley, a farmer-owned nationwide dairy cooperative, must source their feeds from large scale out of state producers who only sell in large batches. Organic feeds are not produced within the state of North Carolina, so local livestock producers and dairy operations rely on sources at a high price because of the increased cost of shipping in large quantities. Many small scale operations are unable to access organic grains. It is not possible to buy feed in smaller batches from large certified organic mills at a price that small operations can afford. Custom feed mixes also cannot be bought from these larger, out-of-state, organic feed suppliers.
James Teague is a North Carolina organic dairyman as a member of Organic Valley. He graduated from North Carolina State University in 1980 and returned to his family dairy in Elon, Guilford County to partner with his dad in the dairy, Reedy Fork Farm, for 30 years. As a 6th generation dairy farmer James was very connected to Reedy Fork. In 2006, the dairy industry was sour in North Carolina and many farmers had to get out of the business. The Teague’s decided to convert to organic and join Organic Valley as a member to save the family dairy.
Teague is very involved in the organic dairy industry and agriculture in North Carolina. He has served on the Guilford County Soil and Water Conservation District Board for 12 years and as a Dairy Executive Committee Representative for Organic Valley in North Carolina. He also ran the feed depot for Organic Valley for the last five years. James Teague has a lifelong experience as a dairyman in North Carolina and understands the importance of a reliable and affordable feed source. He saw how dairy farmers and livestock operators were struggling to pay the high cost of out-of-state organic feeds, mainly a result of the high cost of shipping. He also saw great potential in milling certified organic feeds in North Carolina as a way to give small scale producers access to affordable quantities of organic grain and the ability to create custom mixed feeds for specific nutritional needs locally. Reedy Fork Farm could supply North Carolina organic dairy and livestock producers with organic grain and, at the same time, create an incentive for farmers to start growing organic grains on their farm. Not only would a local organic feed operation provide a product more appropriate for North Carolina husbandry but it could also create a new industry in North Carolina for organically grown grain. The milling operation would also keep dollars circulating with North Carolina agriculture by not relying on out-of-state grain producers for organic feed but instead being able to support farmers and millers within state lines.
James Teague at Reedy Fork Farm in collaboration many other organic dairymen, livestock and grain producers in N.C., was awarded a TCRF grant in 2011 to expand his on-farm milling infrastructure into a certified organic feed operation. The grant would help to improve and expand the operation at Reedy Fork Farm by purchasing a larger commodity shed, eight additional grain bins, a mill, proportioner, tanks, bagger, and loading equipment. With this equipment, Reedy Fork Farm can begin distributing bags of organic grain to producers, farm supply stores, and other places where the need for feed is around.
Teague hopes to generate $200,000 gross annual income from the organic feed operation at Reedy Fork Farm. Dairymen and livestock producers will also benefit financially from the decreased cost in organic feed shipping costs. Farmers in North Carolina will be able to increase their income in new ways by supplying organic grain to the Reedy Fork mill. This project could prove that appropriately scaled, locally owned infrastructure is a key component to a healthy, local agriculture. A locally owned mill or other processing facility could provide jobs, new economic outlets, and decreased prices to rural communities.
Video profile of Reedy Fork Farm by Burlington Food Co-op: