Why I became an organic farmer

Why I became an organic farmer
You can glimpse Mads Helms new barn in the background which is constructed with wooden chips at the floor for maximum animal welfare
 

Why I became an organic farmer

6 questions for Mads Helms on his values, background and investments.
 
Why did you choose the organic way?
Following my first experience with organic production on Iceland I joined the Organic Agricultural College.
I was taught by some of the first organic farmers in Denmark and experienced these pioneers’ ideas and thoughts on the regulations and restrictions to be imposed on organic farming. I was quickly convinced that we shared the same values on animal welfare and sustainable production. During my stay as a volunteer in Lesotho in Africa I saw a number of examples of inconsistent use of pesticides and medication. This convinced me that organic farming fundamentally is the right production form. Instead of spraying our fields with fertilizers we must re-cycle and bring nutrients back into a sustainable production.
Looking back a number of chemicals that were previously allowed are now prohibited. I think this pattern will repeat itself in 10 years’ time, because we do not know the long term effects of the chemicals, we are using today. I am a great believer in the principle of caution that is the foundation for organic production.
 
Where do you see the biggest advantage of organic dairy farming?
Primarily the fact that the animals graze during the summer months. This quite simply ensures healthier cows; a fact which has been documented many times. It causes reductions in vet bills and better economy. And I think the openness of organic farming is a major benefit when addressing the consumers.
 
How would you describe the principles of your farm?
Basically the animals should have the best possible conditions and a life that matches their nature as much possible. Healthy animals give more milk and are less ill, which ensures good economy. This is the reason  organic farmers let our animals graze in the fields.
We endeavour to create proper working conditions for employees and we have been fortunate in attracting very motivated employees that really care about their work and want to ensure the well-being of the cows.
 
Why did you choose to build a composting barn?
Because it is good for the cows and because the organic material is a natural element of the organic cycle, when it comes back as garden manure.
The barn floor is covered by 80 cm wood chippings or other organic material, which provide the cows with a high level of comfort when lying down freely, without stalls. Furthermore the organic process develops heat, which is comfortable during the winter.
After 1-2 years in the barn it becomes sphagnum-like manure, which I expect to sell to e.g. garden owners. We will be developing this product in the coming years.
 
How do you see Danish, organic milk production in an international context?
I believe we have a very strong position. We have strict regulations and a tradition for registering and documenting almost everything, i.e. breeding, use of medication, milk quality and our traceability systems are second to none. It is therefore no coincidence that we have had almost no cases of cheating or other scandals in the Danish milk production.

What does it entail to deliver milk to a smaller dairy?
It is important for us to be close to our dairy and its employees as well as the other milk producers. This ensures transparency, presence and commitment and we help each other with various challenges. We all work to produce the best quality, enabling the dairy to pay us top prices.