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SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Dairy farms are integral to agriculture in Sullivan County, directly contributing more than $7 million to the local economy, but they came under threat recently when six of them received news that their fluid milk contracts with Marcus Dairy would end in 2018. Now it looks like a proposed creamery, Ma & Pa Creamery LLC, may help address the problem.
The possibility emerged in the course of the efforts by Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County (CCESC), which provides support to local agriculture, to address the crisis caused by the termination of the contracts. It has been fielding inquiries and identifying short- and long-term solutions, and now, in collaboration with the farms and partners like Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC), Sullivan County Funding Corporation (SCFC), Agricultural and Community Development Services LLC, the Sullivan County government and New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s office, the new opportunity has emerged.
Ma & Pa Creamery LLC is a proposed grower-controlled dairy plant, and a $93,489.63 grant has been approved by the Sullivan County government, through the New York State Office of Community Renewal, to fund the development of the business planning, engineering studies and research required to move the project forward. The grant also funds a milk truck for shipping to high-value markets.
“At this time, Ma & Pa Creamery is still in its conception,” said Colleen Monaghan, CCESC executive director. “We’re working with partners to conduct market feasibility analyses, develop a business plan and set the groundwork for this exciting opportunity for farmers across the county.”
The dairy plant initiative is exploring the opportunity to process, market, and distribute niche dairy products including kosher, organic and grass-fed milk products.
“Dairy farmers are dealing with many forces that are beyond their control, and we are excited to see that this cohesive group is exploring options that put their farms’ financial futures more squarely in their own hands and that HVADC can bring its expertise to the collaborative efforts,” said Todd Erling, HVADC executive director.
“Our dairy farms have been the economic backbone of this county since its inception 200 years ago, and we’re not about to forget that in the 21st century,” said Sullivan County District 4 Legislator Catherine Owens, chair of the legislature’s agriculture and sustainability policy committee.
“Our dairy farmers provide jobs, preserve open space, patronize many local businesses and produce products of high quality. They support the community in so many ways, and we must support them in return.”
“The dairy farmers of Sullivan County are some of the hardest working people I know. Their farms have been around for generations—they’re our friends and neighbors. I’ll continue to do everything I can to support them and their industry,” said Gunther.
The Sullivan County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan was adopted in 2014. The plan specifically states that a priority of the county is to work with Sullivan County dairy farmers and establish niche dairy and value-added dairy products to support the dairy industry in the county.