The "Organic Valley" label is the nation's largest farmer-owned, certified-organic brand.
The Organic Valley co-op was founded in 1988 as the Coulee Region Organic Producer Pool; in 2001 CROPP changed its name to the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools to reflect its national reach.
Organic vegetables were the first products pooled together for sale, but within a year dairy became the leading sales category. Today, more than 85% of sales are dairy-related.
The co-op began selling organic eggs in 1993, meat in 1998, pork and poultry in 1999, orange juice (from a Florida organic co-op) in 2000 and soy in 2005.
The co-op sells organic milk to Stonyfield for its yogurt and to several supermarket chains for their house brand organic milk.
Wal-Mart was a milk customer, too, but the co-op, under fire from organic advocates, ended the relationship in 2004.
Of the 1,183 co-op members, 919 are primarily dairy farmers; 122 grow produce, 77 sell eggs; 45 raise beef; 16 raise hogs; two raise chickens, and there is one soy and one juice member.
Co-op members reside in 32 states and Ontario. Wisconsin has the most members, followed by Minnesota, Vermont and Iowa.
To raise capital, CROPP is offering $17 million in nonvoting shares for public purchase. The shares pay 6% annual interest; minimum investment is $5,000. The offering continues through August 2008; about $13.5 million has been raised thus far. The stock proceeds will be used for, among other purposes, to fund farmer transitions to organic production and to pay for a portion of the new $17.5 million Cashton distribution center.
The State of Wisconsin Investment Board provided the underlying $12 million mortgage for the new distribution center.
In 1998, Gov. Tommy Thompson and USDA Secretary Dan Glickman honored CROPP as "Wisconsin's Number One Rural Initiative."