Value-added dairy operations aren’t for the faint of heart, according to Mountain Fresh Creamery’s Jen Glover. Her family’s creamery and dairy operation in Georgia produces primarily fluid milk, ice cream, and butter. She described farming and operating the creamery during the May 19 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream.
“Really, truly, it’s just like having two dairies,” Glover said. “You have your dairy farm where you’re milking; we also offer tours there, so we have people on our farm several times during the week. Then, we have the creamery aspect.”
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Mark Stephenson echoed Glover’s words of caution.
“I get questions from producers all the time about value-added.
“My first instinct is to just throw buckets of cold water all over those, and if there’s still steam coming off them afterward, then let’s talk because it is not an easy task to do value-added,” he cautioned.
The three questions
For those considering moving to a value-added dairy operation, there are three questions Stephenson proposed.
- Are you a good dairy producer?
- What skills that make you a good producer would make you a good creamery operator?
- How will you create a market for your milk?
“One of the first things you have to ask is presumably you’re a good dairy producer; you’re good at making milk,” Stephenson explained. “I think that’s imperative for starting to have this kind of discussion.”
As to the second question, the seasoned economist expanded on the question of what makes a good creamery operator. “Many of those skills are not transferable,” he said of dairy farming and creamery operation. The key skill set of marketing your product is tied into this concern of Stephenson’s.
“You have to be quite an extrovert and talk about that farm story. That’s not always the case for many of our producers and growers, and it’s a big part of what it takes to be successful,” he reminded listeners.
Will your product sell?
This leads to Stephenson’s final value-added question. Can you find a market? He expanded on the thought by quoting from Cornell’s Max Brunk’s 1983 text entitled “What is Marketing?”
“Contrary to popular opinion among farmers, markets are not a right,” the excerpt from Brunk’s paper reads. “No one individual, no one industry, owns a franchise on the market. You have to work and scheme and sweat to produce the raw products of agriculture, but that does not give you the right to a market. To get that right you also have to work and scheme and sweat to create markets, to take markets away from someone else, to keep someone else from taking your market.”
While that was true when it was penned in 1983, it is all the more true today. Value-added dairy can be a fulfilling, rewarding, and economically sound decision for a farm, but it also comes with a fair number of challenges and roadblocks. All should be considered before jumping in.
To watch the recording of the May 19 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is now also available as an audio-only podcast. Click here to listen or download.
An ongoing series of events
The next broadcast of DairyLivestream will be on Wednesday, June 2 at 11 a.m. CDT. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven’t joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, register here. Registering once registers you for all future events.