Organic Authority: This Grass-Fed Dairy Cooperative Is Rewarding Farmers for Better Practices

Emily Monaco of Organic Authority spoke to our very own Tim Joseph about tough beginnings and his commitment to 100% grass-fed dairy. Reposted in part below from Organic Authority

Trends in food are moving in favor of methods that are better for animals, people, and the environment – but it’s not always simple for producers to cater to the demand. Organic and grass-fed farming methods are far more expensive and difficult to do right than conventional, which is why when communities and cooperatives make it even a little bit easier for farmers to do the right thing, we need to take notice

Maple Hill: Tough Beginnings Pay Off

Today, Maple Hill is a 150-family-farm-strong grass-fed dairy cooperative, but back in 2003, it was just one family and one farm.
Maple Hill founders Tim and Laura Joseph had no farming experience, in 2003, but Tim Joseph had known he’d wanted to be a farmer since he was thirteen.

“I just always messed around with chickens and things like that, while working in other industries,” he says. “In 2003, I was working from home, I had a corporate job, and I was sort of desperately trying to leave that job. I basically said to my wife, ‘Why don’t we use this time to buy a farm and see what we can do?’”
They purchased Stone Creek Farm in 2003 and quickly decided to invest in the regular paycheck that dairy brings. In 2004, they began producing conventional dairy, with an eye towards transitioning to organic as soon as possible, a move that became official in 2007 – and led them to become champions for organic, grass-fed dairy almost by accident.

While they had long been interested in grazing, it was the recession that really brought about the transition to grass-fed, Tim Joseph recounts.
“We couldn’t afford organic grain anyway,” he says. “So we just basically went grass-fed.”

With invaluable help from Tim’s sister Julia and her husband, Pete Meck, the Josephs toiled to overcome their lack of funds and began producing organic, grass-fed yogurt, which they sold at farmer’s markets before seeking out their first distributor.
“That’s sort of where the seeds of the current Maple Hill began,” says Joseph, noting that in 2010, they brought on another farm to help meet growing demands.
“Those two things together – adding an institution and adding farms to support it – just happened, sort of – no pun intended – organically over the years.”

Growing demand for grass-fed dairy helped the farm to grow too: in 2012, the creamery could no longer support increasing orders. The families sold the original farm and moved to Stuyvesant, New York, where a larger facility helped them found the extremely successful operation they run today.

Today, Maple Hill produces whole and reduced fat milk, reduced fat chocolate milk, and raw milk cheddar and gouda-style cheeses, all made with 100 percent organic, grass-fed dairy. The company’s flagship product – yogurt that Tim Joseph first created on his kitchen stove – is now available in a variety of flavors as well as in blended, drinkable, and cream-on-top varieties.