Niagara Gazette — When Tina Kowalski is out grocery shopping and she sees someone pick up a carton of organic milk, she sometimes walks over to thank them.
If that carton is produced by the Upstate Farms dairy cooperative, there’s a good chance it contains milk from one of the 60 dairy cows on her Lockport farm. And she just loves those cows.
“Our girls are so happy and healthy,” she said proudly. “I come out here in the morning and they talk to me. They come when they’re called.”
Kowalski and her husband are organic dairy farmers, owners of Maverick Farm in Lockport.
“I have the best job in the world,” she said recently, during a pasture walk she and her husband, Karl, held for other area farmers interested in learning more about grazing.
The program, sponsored by Cooperative Extension Services, gave area farmers a chance to see the grazing fields that the Kowalskis have constructed, which allow the cows to move about and graze the fields in fenced increments.
For their milk to be organically certified, the cows must graze, rather than be fed hay in barns as some larger farms do. In the Kowalskis’ eyes, their methods are simple, old-fashioned farming, but their product is better for it.
“The farming industry as a whole is heading back to the way farmers used to farm,” Tina explained as Karl led the dozen or so visiting farmers back into his fields.
“With organic farming, the only time you have the cows confined is when you’re milking them,” she said. “They have to be able to get outside in the sunshine every day and do whatever it is a cow would normally do, even in the winter.”
Organic farmers are currently being paid about $26 a hundred weight, for a little more than 11 gallons of milk, while conventional milk farmers get about $20 for the same amount.