A southern Minnesota farm family chose to go the organic route 25 years ago – and Monday it led them to a recognition ceremony at the White House.
Loretta Jaus, who farms with her husband, Martin, in Sibley County, was among 12 farmers hailed as "Champions of Change" for promoting sustainable and climate-smart agriculture.
Sixty dairy cows graze on the Jaus' fourth-generation farm near Gibbon, whose conservation focus grabbed federal attention.
In a profile of the Jauses last year, MPR News said they were organic before it was cool, first getting USDA certification in 1990.
MPR says the farm, where six different crops are rotated, is now a destination for those wanting to learn more about organic techniques that nourish soil and ward off pests without synthetic chemicals.
The Jauses told the Dairy Star of Sauk Centre a few years ago that more than 100 acres of pasture on their farm includes several kinds of grasses and legumes for grazing.
They were also profiled by Conservation Minnesota (before losing their "showstopper" of a barn to fire in 2010).
A corn and soybean farmer in northern Iowa, Tim Smith, was also among those recognized at the White House, the Mason City Globe Gazette reports. Smith is also a fourth-generation farmer, the White House says, and was recognized for his focus on strengthening soil health and improving water quality.
Growth of organic farming
Minnesota's Department of Agriculture says organic farming is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the food industry, estimating there are now 560 such farms in the state.
The agency has information for farmers interested in getting certified as organic. Lists of some of the organic farms in the state can be found in the Agriculture Department's voluntary directory and in the Minnesota Grown directory.
WCCO reported that the median net income for Minnesota's organic farmers more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. But at $85,000 a year, it was still less than half that of conventional farmers.
See a video of Monday's White House presentation with all 12 farmers recognized as Champions of Change here.