Kriemhild Dairy Farms
A growing awareness of the economic, social, and environmental benefits of buying local food means that consumers are actively looking for these products, even while the number of farms is shrinking.
This is one of those contradictions that actually makes sense, since it takes agility, technical support, and money to respond to changes in the marketplace. It didn’t help much that, when Becca Jablonski began her SARE Sustainable Community project to support dairy farmers in New York, the price of milk was $11.83 per hundredweight, well below the cost of production.
Yet research seems to indicate that the localvore movement is here to stay: According to a Roper poll completed for Organic Valley, 73 percent of consumers say it’s important to know whether food is grown locally or regionally, and 38 percent believe it’s very important. Additionally, a 2007 USDA study indicated that the localvore market could be growing by as much as 75 percent a year.
The main result of Jablonski’s SARE project was the establishment of Kriemhild Dairy Farms, L.L.C (KDF), with four member farms and two more Amish farms as affiliate contractors. They came together with the shared goal of developing a line of branded grass-based dairy products, and agreements are now in place with Queensboro Farm Products, Inc. to process KDF’s first consumer offering—butter. Three local food distributors and a grocery store chain have agreed to carry KDF’s butter, and the company is now positioned to take advantage of this emerging market at an attractive price and consumer preference point—the butter, while not organic, is antibiotic and pesticide free.
Another result has been remarkable project momentum and leveraged money—KDF was recently awarded a $17,000 USDA Value-Added grant and also got $5,000 through a private donation. The new company now has all the funding needed to test, package, and launch the grass-based butter.
And, as Jablonski reports, there have been less tangible but equally important impacts from the effort: “The community seems to have rallied around it,” she says, and the farmers also found a way to bridge their differences and move from competition to cohesion.
The farms involved were unusually diverse, “ranging in size from milking 20 cows to 800,” she says. “Two of the participating farms are Amish, and the non-Amish farmers worked with them to figure out a way for them to participate without having to compromise their religious beliefs. Two of the participating farmers are fifth- and sixth-generation farmers, and four of the farmers have lived in the area less than ten years.”
She describes the meetings and discussions as “animated,” but she also says the farmers “always took the time to listen to each other and really understand the other farmers’ point of view—even if they did not agree with it.”
One of the goals of the Sustainable Community Grant program is to develop exactly this kind of vibrancy and cooperation within the agricultural community, and Northeast SARE looks for chances to make modest, strategic investments that will invite long-term, measurable results. This projec clearly did that, and the continued funding will likely keep the fledgling corporation strong and the conversation going. And,as Jablonski puts it, “Without funding from SARE, KDF would not exist.”
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) CNE08-040, Strengthening community through enhancing the economic viability of dairy farming .
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