Horizon Organic announced the recipients of its two annual farmer awards. The Horizon Organic Producer Education (HOPE) Award is given out to those who advocate for organic agriculture, while the National Quality Award recognizes the Horizon farmer who produces the highest quality organic milk in the entire Horizon milk supply.
The 2012 HOPE Award will be given to Pete and Anita Ruegemer of Villard, Minn., and the 2012 National Quality Award will be awarded to Stephen and Hope Galens of Clifton Springs, N.Y.
“These two awards help us recognize the outstanding achievements of our family farmers, who are the heart of Horizon,” said Mike Ferry, Horizon Organic president. “Through the HOPE Award, we’re proud to honor Pete and Anita Ruegemer’s commitment to building the organic community by sharing their story and inspiring others to transition to organic. We also acknowledge Stephen and Hope Galens’ commitment to producing the highest quality organic milk in our milk supply for families to enjoy.”
HOPE Award: Pete and Anita Ruegemer
Horizon will honor the Ruegemer family with the 2012 HOPE Award for their diligence in practicing the spirit of organic, for spreading the message within their community, and for serving as a mentor and model for other farmers who are in the process of transitioning to organic.
For the Ruegemers, organic dairy farming was a natural fit. They stopped using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers on their farm in 1998 and decided to transition to organic practices in 2003 because they felt it was a more holistic and natural way to take care of their animals and land. They have been shipping to Horizon since 2006 and currently milk 150 cows on 500 acres.
“We switched to organic because it aligned with our mindset,” said Pete Ruegemer. “We wanted to do things as naturally as possible and organic enables us to do just that. It’s given us a better way of life and one that we’re particularly proud of.”
Today, the Ruegemers actively help other farmers make the transition to organic, serving as a resource and a mentor for those in their community. Pete has also participated as a mentor for transitioning farmers through the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), which works to promote sustainable and organic agriculture.
“The HOPE Award is a big honor for us,” said Anita Ruegemer. “It recognizes something that is simply our way of life and our passion. When you’re passionate about something, it shows, and we’re proud to win this award for what we believe in.”
National Quality Award: Stephen and Hope Galens
Stephen and Hope Galens received Horizon’s National Quality Award for consistently delivering the highest quality milk of all of Horizon’s producers in 2012. Stephen has been milking cows since he graduated from high school. Today, he milks 22 cows—mostly Holsteins—on the 160-acre farm where he grew up.
The Galens started shipping organic milk to Horizon in December 2010, though they had started using some organic farming methods on their crops prior to starting their transition to organic because they felt that it was better for the land.
Stephen attributes his success to making quality a priority on his farm. “It’s really nice to receive the appreciation and respect this award represents,” he said. “I enjoy what I do, and try to do the best I can at it every day.”
The top 10 percent of Horizon farms in each state also earned quality awards. For consideration, producers must ship organic milk to the company for one full calendar year, and the average test results for each shipment must be among the best in their respective states.
The Ruegemers and Galens will receive their awards at this year’s Farm Aid concert at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. America’s longest running concert-for-a-cause, Farm Aid is held each year to help further its mission to keep farm families on their land. Horizon Organic has been a sponsor of Farm Aid since 2003.
“We are glad to welcome Horizon Organic dairy farmers to enjoy a day of celebration of family farmers and to join with concertgoers and artists to build a stronger movement for good food from family farms,” said Glenda Yoder, assistant director of Farm Aid. “We are grateful for the ongoing support from Horizon Organic.”