Francis and Susan Thicke, operators of the organic Radiance Dairy in Fairfield, Iowa, rely on their past farming experience as well as intuition and observation to keep their animals and land healthy.
Francis and Susan Thicke, of Radiance Dairy in Fairfield, were presented with this year’s MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year award in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on February 24 at the largest organic farming conference in the country. Since 2003, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) has presented this award to a notable organic farmer who practices outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach.
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
Francis recommends that farmers “listen to your inner agronomist, not be
so tied to pre-conceived notions, and be more fluid” in making
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 that includes 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” for Fairfield, 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.