Royal River Natural Foods is the first Maine retailer to officially join the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership’s efforts to support local organic dairy brands and organic dairy farms.
The partnership, launched earlier this year through the efforts of Stonyfield Organic co-founder Gary Hirshberg, hopes to encourage consumers to increase their weekly purchases of organic dairy brands with the goal of providing area dairy farms with the demand they need to remain financially viable.
Royal River Natural Foods, located in Freeport, has committed to promoting organic dairy brands that include Balfour Farm, Grace Pond Farm, Misty Brook, Neighborly Farms, Organic Valley, Stonyfield Organic, Straw’s Farm, The Milkhouse, Tide Mill Organic Farm, LLC, and Wolfe’s Neck Center for Education and the Environment.
“We have always supported local Maine farms, and buy local whenever possible,” Royal River President Tina Wilcoxson said in a press release. Having grown up on multi-generational Maine potato farm, Wilcoxson said she understands the challenges facing organic dairy farmers, as well as the organic brands sourcing their milk. “This is a wonderful opportunity to build on our efforts to engage our customers and foster their support of organic dairy here in Maine and across the region.”
Royal River Natural Foods, founded in 1994, is a community market dedicated to helping Mainers eat well and live healthfully by supporting local farmers and producers. Its mission also includes community outreach in support of local groups and non-profit organizations.
As part of its role in the Partnership, Royal River Natural Foods is encouraging customers to purchase one-quarter of their weekly dairy products from participating local organic brands and take a pledge to that effect on the Partnership’s website, at www.saveorganicfamilyfarms.org. More than 2500 consumers have taken the pledge to date, says Olga Moriarty, Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership Executive Director.
Last fall, 135 organic family farms across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and eastern New York received the sudden news that Horizon and Maple Hill Creamery were terminating their purchase contracts, effective in early 2023. This news put these farms, many of whom have been in business for generations, at serious risk of closure unless they find alternate outlets. In early January, the Northeast Organic Family Farm Partnership, a first-of-its-kind campaign in partnership with the Maine Organic Farming and Gardening Association (MOFGA), was created to help solve the crisis of disappearing family farms in our region.
The partnership, a collaboration of farmers, processors, retailers, activists, and government agencies, invites consumers to pledge to purchase at least one-fourth of their weekly organic dairy purchases from brands that have committed to sourcing their dairy from Northeast organic family farmers. A central goal of the effort is to increase demand for dairy produced in our region, creating market stability to help at-risk farms and build greater food system resilience for the future.