George Siemon: How Organic Valley Became a $1B, Mission-Driven Coop

If you only have two minutes, click here for a highlight from the interview 


One of the nation's foremost organic agriculture advocates for nearly two decades, George Siemon is best known for his leadership in organizing farmers and building market support for organic agriculture. In 1988, Siemon joined a group of family farmers in Wisconsin to found the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). More commonly known by its brands Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, CROPP has grown to become the largest organic farming cooperative in North America.

Organic Valley producers promote sustainability by farming without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides. Their livestock herds feed on pasture, preserving landscapes and biodiversity for future generations.

Under Siemon’s leadership, Organic Valley has been recognized widely for its business and farming innovations for over 20 years. A native of Florida, Siemon received his bachelor's degree in animal science from Colorado State University. Siemon and his family have owned and operated an organic farm since 1977

In our interview, we discuss things like:

  • How George got started in the “Back to the Land” movement in the 1970’s, and how he was one of the only people doing all-organic in the mid-1980s

  • Why Organic Valley is a producer cooperative, and how being a co-op benefits its farmer members

  • How George and the Organic Valley team have approached raising capital

  • The top 2-3 challenges that keep George up and night, and

  • How birdwatching can lead to being a successful CEO

 

Resources:

Book: Black Elk Speaks

Wendell Berry

Mighty Organic

 

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Ryan Honeyman is a Partner at LIFT Economy and author of The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). LIFT Economy is an impact consulting firm whose mission is to create, model, and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @honeymanconsult or email him ryan@lifteconomy.com.