Jon Bansen
Organic Valley Dairy Farmer
Monmouth, Oregon

Source: Organic Valley

"Most people think Christmas is the best day of the year, but they’re wrong," says Jon Bansen, of Monmouth, Oregon. "Best day of the year is the first day of spring, when the cows go back out to pasture."

Jon wouldn’t dream of keeping his cows indoors year-round, as happens at confinement dairies nationwide. He must bring them in for winter, to guard the herd from bitter weather and the land from being stomped on when it’s wet and fragile. But the day that the skies clear, Jon opens the gates.

For months afterwards he sleeps with his bedroom window open, listening for rain. "In springtime, we do a thing called ‘The Dance,’" he says. "We dance them outside, then dance them back in if the weather gets too bad." It’s extra work-his father always just kept the herd in until spring was absolutely certain-but it’s worth it to Jon. "My approach is that whenever there’s grass growing, my cows will be grazing. That’s what they’re meant to do, after all. I wouldn’t have it any other way."

The Bansens are one of over 700 unique family farmer-owners of the Organic Valley Co-op.

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Photography © Carrie Branovan 2006 for Organic Valley Family of Farms®.