New Markets for Milk
By Adding Value, Dairy Farmers Develop New Markets for Milk
|Above: Community development specialists in northern Pennsylvania, hoping to boost the local economy, surveyed consumers about their dairy buying preferences. Many Pennsylvania dairy farmers produce milk from cows raised in well-managed pasture systems. Photo by Valerie Berton.|
To counter static dairy prices, a diverse group of Pennsylvania community development and business representatives received a SARE grant to study the feasibility of adding value to milk right in their region. The Union County Chamber of Commerce led a group of central Pennsylvania dairy producers, farmland protection advocates and business leaders in investigating whether producing local milk and cheeseand adding value to it with such techniques as glass bottlingwould benefit area farmers. The grant funded market research that helped the group identify a healthy demand for locally produced farm products in the Susquehanna Valley. The researchers turned up information about how many producers might be needed to fill local niches and how farmers might meet the demandand with what products. As a result, a group of growers opened a producers-only farmers market in Mifflinburg, Pa., while a dairy cooperative received a USDA rural development loan to construct a bottling plant and retail milk market featuring old-style glass bottles. (See cover photo.) The SARE research was key to the cooperative's successful application, said project cooperator Bill Deitrick, Union County agricultural land preservation administrator. "The dairy industry is a mature industry," he says. "The only way to develop new marketing potential is to re-invent the wheel. We need to re-train farmers so they develop marketing skills alongside production skills." The group is continuing to identify markets for locally produced farm products and hopes to jointly support a regional ag marketing specialist position.
[For more information, go to http://www.sare.org/projects/ and search for LNE98-099]