Despite challenges, Fairfield dairy farmer sticks with organic

Francis Thicke, owner of Radiance Dairy in Fairfield said he milks about 90 cows and processes the milk on his farm/KTVO

Research shows more farmers in Iowa are starting to farm organically.

KTVO found a dairy farmer in Fairfield who picked up the trend decades ago.

"It was considered crazy," said Francis Thicke, owner of Radiance Dairy.

Thicke started farming organically in 1975. Back then, the former USDA expert said he got funny looks from his neighbors and his professors.

"Many researches now, are very excited about it, so it's interesting for me to see that turn around over the years,” Thicke said. “What was considered heresy at one time is considered cool now."

Thicke understood the appeal all along.

"I never really thought that it should be necessary to use toxic materials to grow food," he said.

No antibiotics and no synthetic hormones.

But Thicke told KTVO there's a lot more to it than using natural ingredients. He said organic farming requires an ecologically-based system.

"We have to design to manage the farm so that it kind of works by itself," Thicke said.

Which means his cows graze outside, and stick to a diet with all grass and no corn.

"Cows eating grass don't give as much milk as cows eating corn, but they live longer and cause fewer problems," Thicke said.

Thicke milks about 90 cows. He processes the milk on his farm and sells it to three different grocery stores, and about 20 different restaurants within a five-mile radius.

“It's kind of nice to have that local market, which we’ve built up over many years here,” Thicke said.

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