Humble Beginnings in 1989
Like many great movements, Organic Meadow was born out of an urgent need, a powerful vision and persistent determination.
It all began in 1989 around a kitchen table on a farm in Durham, Ontario, when a group of 6 organic grain farmers decided it was time to give back to the land and produce food the way it used to be done – without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. They were a unique mix of new converts from chemical farming and “dyed in the wool” environmentalists with one shared belief – that the system was not working and that they would rebuild it, from the ground up.
There was an urgent need to have a means of getting crops to the market. The entire organic food business was only in its infancy at the time, with no reliable infrastructure. While regular farmers had many marketing options, the pioneers of organics were very much on their own. The founders had a radical vision: create a totally new food system that would deliver high-quality, certified organic, local food to consumers. A mill manager was hired, along with a part-time secretary, and OntarBio Organic Farmers Co-operative Inc. was in business, managed by a volunteer Board of Directors and a slew of committees.
The deal for co-operative members was plain and simple: OntarBio would take in grains at harvest, store and market them, deduct the operational costs and pay the balance out to the growers. At the time, they were desperately short of resources and business experience, launching into a very competitive grain industry. What held the co-operative together was the sense of belonging to something bigger than them – a fundamentally worthwhile and necessary endeavour. They felt that through their co-operative, they were protecting the way of life they cherished.
A Coming of Age:
The co-op’s economic prospects took a positive turn in 1995, when the pioneers of the organic dairy industry joined and launched one of the first organic dairy products in Canada – Country Meadow Cheese. A year later, Organic Meadow organic milk was launched. Shortly after, the Board made a bold move with two key business decisions: to guarantee member farmers a premium on all organic milk and to hire a professional marketing manager. The rest, as they say, is history. Within a few months, contracts with major retailers were made and the co-op set out recruiting more organic farmers to expand the pool. The Organic Meadow brand has progressed steadily, today offering a complete selection of organic dairy products. Being the “first in” brand has allowed Organic Meadow to become a national entity, with products in stores from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Vancouver, British Columbia.