The 2012 Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farmer of the Year honorees are Francis and Susan Thicke, owners and operators of Radiance Dairy in Fairfield, Iowa.
Since 2003, the annual MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year Award has been presented to an outstanding organic farmer or farm family to recognize those who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation and outreach. This honor is commemorated during the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, which is the largest organic farming conference in the country. Held February 23-25, 2012, the Organic Farming Conference is in its 23rd year.
Francis and Susan Thicke will share with conference attendees their successful philosophies and strategies on the evening of Thursday, February 23. The Organic Farmer of the Year award will be officially presented to the Thickes at 10:30 am Friday, February 24.
Francis and Susan purchased their land in 1996, taking on the challenge of healing a worn out and heavily eroded row crop farm. Intense management over many years has resulted in productive land and continually improving soils.
Francis recommends that farmers “listen to your inner agronomist, not be so tied to pre-conceived notions, and be more fluid” in making management decisions.
Using sound science and their intuition of what is right for both land and animals, the Thickes’ farming style is fun and functional. The natural world and its numerous ecological systems are a continuous source of inspiration and learning for them.
Radiance Dairy is in a location well suited for growing grass and raising cattle. The Thickes maximize their grazing by stockpiling grass, with cows out on pasture April through December.
A crop rotation including hay and small grains minimizes weed pressure, and the Thickes sometimes need only to cultivate once per season to keep their soybean crop clean. Diverse plantings in and near pastures are designed for conservation, including windbreaks of fruiting trees and shrubs for wildlife habitat.
The Thickes serve as the “community dairy” of this Southeastern Iowa college town, marketing the production of their 80-cow organic Jersey herd within four miles of the farm.
Value-added products are key to the farm’s profitability. Radiance Dairy organic products include non-homogenized milk, yogurt, several cheeses, and soft-serve ice cream mix for restaurants.
By educating others through example, teaching at events and participating in political activities, Francis and Susan Thicke help to build regional and national public support of organic agriculture.
MOSES is a non-profit organization working to promote sustainable and organic agriculture through trainings, workshops, educational initiatives, and by providing free resources to farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques.