Over three years, 48 farmer/entrepreneurs devoted significant time, money and energy to experimenting with developing a value-added dairy product for market. Of these, 24 went on to successfully introduce one or more products for direct market or wholesale distribution. Farmers/entrepreneurs interested in incorporating or expanding value-added dairy endeavors into their operation counted for over 1055 registrants attending 29 separate events, from 80 minute conference workshops to three day hands-on cheese-making intensives. 76% of responders to post-event surveys noted an intention to make a change as a result of PASA programming.
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) proposed a series of educational workshops and trainings over the course of three years, designed to empower farmers and entrepreneurs to develop and market value-added dairy products, including artisan and farmstead cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, butter, cottage cheese, and more.
PASA sought to provide Pennsylvania dairy farmers the opportunity to diversify farm income through participation in field days, intensive learning programs, and conference tracks and workshops about producing and marketing value-added dairy products. Because the majority of Pennsylvania dairy farms are relatively small family operations, struggling to make dairy farming viable now as well as for future generations, the demand is great for practical trainings offering options for maintaining the solvency of the family farm. The programming made possible by this grant provided agency to farmers, arming them with the knowledge necessary to develop markets, test recipes, brand products, and assess and manage product quality.
Value-added dairy programming was offered statewide, drew on initial Regional Food Infrastructure Network (RFIN) research regarding existing product availability and consumer demands, and offered dairy farmers opportunities for business plan development as well as marketing support. In the planning and execution of value-added dairy programming, PASA has made use of relationships with partnering organizations as well as with key individuals in the community to access and serve that community.
- n Enabled by PASA’s value-added dairy programs, we expect 45 farmers and/or entrepreneurs will devote significant investments of time, funds and energy to experimenting with developing a value-added dairy product for market.
48 of 62 farmers/entrepreneurs responding to surveys and/or participating
in interviews noted devoting significant time, money, and energy experimenting with developing a value-added dairy product for market.
n Of these, 15 will go on to successfully introduce this product for direct market or wholesale distribution.
24 farmers and/or entrepreneurs responding to surveys and/or participating
in interviews reported successfully introducing product(s) for market.
From interviews and surveys conducted with established dairy farmers, dairy entrepreneurs, and aspiring entrepreneurs, PASA identified a range of topics and technical training that would be of benefit to producers looking to begin or expand value-added dairy production. As part of the established seasonal on-farm field day and intensive learning programs provided in addition to the workshops and pre-conference tracks of PASA’s annual Farming for the Future conference, PASA endeavored to implement a series of events designed to allow farmers to learn from experienced producers and experts, to see theory put into practice, and to have opportunities for hands-on experience in the company of experts.
Educational outreach programming offers farmers opportunities to acquire, implement, and/or augment skills and techniques vital to the improvement and ultimate success of their farming and entrepreneurial enterprises, as well as diversifying farm income and developing business options that contribute to the ongoing solvency of the family farm. The programming also facilitates the exchange of information specific to value-added dairy production practices necessary to develop markets, test recipes, brand products, and manage quality.
The goal of producer led, farmer-to-farmer field days is to facilitate the exchange of information related to adding value to dairy products thus encouraging product quality improvement and emphasizing a greater portion of the market dollar available to the farmer. These semiformal gatherings, hosted at PASA member farms, give hosts a chance to showcase their operation: highlighting particular practices, products, plans, and/or equipment, and offering participants a behind the scenes view into established, innovative, and/or successful operations. Under PASA’s direction, a series of eight field days offered daylong interactions with experts and experienced producers, covering topics that ranged from how herd health affects product quality to a tour of a successful grass-based ice cream operation to marketing goats’ milk skin care products. These events covered information on: value-added dairy production, including cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.; construction and maintenance of on-farm processing facilities; sanitation regulations, labeling laws, and legal processing and storage; and marketing and distribution.
Intensive learning programs are more in-depth, sometimes running for several full days, and offer hands-on training by experts and experienced producers in limited enrollment classes (usually 12-20 registrants). Intensives take place at production sites, and allow participants to interact directly with experts, to see and take part in technical demonstrations, and to engage in actual production. Intensive learning programs included several beginning cheese-making sessions, as well as an advanced cheese-making session and an event dedicated to working with goats’ milk.
Conference workshops are an effective way to reach farmers during their downtime in the winter months. These 80-minute presentations feature experts from around the country and provide focused introduction, explanation, and/or discussion of a wide array of topics of interest to value-added dairy producers.
Pre-conference Tracks, like intensive learning programs, offer in-depth, hands-on technical information and demonstration. As part of the conference, these tracks are a practical option for producers wanting to attend an intensive program who may not have been able to take time away from their farms during the field day season.
Value-added dairy programming has long been central in PASA’s educational lineup, and in the years prior to securing this grant, PASA offered three pre-conference tracks and five multi-day intensive learning programs with renowned cheese-makers including Kathy Biss, Ricki Carroll, and Peter Dixon. Through surveys conducted after this programming as well as from general membership feedback we determined that PASA was well positioned to organize and implement the kind of events needed by farmers, entrepreneurs and those aspiring to enter this market. Drawing on our connections with the Pennsylvania Farmstead and Artisan Cheesemakers Alliance (PA FACA) and on our established relationships with well-respected cheesemakers and dairy foods consultants, we were able to design a series of events to encourage experimentation, offer hands-on experience in production, expand the existing knowledge base, and demonstrate the potential for establishing and/or expanding value-added dairy ventures.
In collaboration with the PA FACA, PASA designed a series of programs targeting value-added dairy producers in general, and the aforementioned topics specifically. With PASA’s then 5,000 plus membership database as a starting point, we used our connections with collaborating and like-minded organizations (Pennsylvania Certified Organic, National Center for Appropriate Technology, PA Project Grass, for example) to get the word out to potential participants, distributing calendars to mailing lists and emails to listservs and email lists. Press releases were sent to agricultural newspapers (Lancaster Farming, Farmshine, Farmer’s Friend, etc.) as well as to mainstream newspapers in the areas where events were held. Full-color flyers were distributed to, and posted by, extension agents, sustainable agriculture departments at colleges and universities and key players including board members and researchers. Occasional postcards were sent to members and contacts without email, or when events occurred outside of the normal event season. An effort was made to connect field day season events with conference programming, offering beginning and advanced courses. In addition, field day calendar listings and articles covering particular events and the project as a whole were published in Passages, PASA’s bi-monthly newsletter.
The 2007 season started with Goats’ Milk Cheesemaking with Linda Smith. This intensive covered the qualities of good milk, sanitation regulations, breeds of goats, equipment, supplies, labeling, and sources for supplies and information. The class made two types of feta and chevre was made using four separate techniques. Linda’s experience – selling chevre, feta, caerphilly, mozzarella and aged raw milk cheeses at five farmers markets, local stores and their farm stand as well as having managed a commercial dairy since 1988 – provided a valuable and in-depth two day learning experience for twelve participants who also benefited from seeing and working at Fallsdale Farms, where Dick and Carol Barrett produce artisan cheeses.
In July, Neville McNaughton presented a three-day intensive cheesemaking course for beginners. Under his tutelage, the class made chevre, cheddar, camembert and havarti, and concurrent discussions covered setting up a cheese plant, equipment, making and aging consistent cheeses, marketing, and milk quality. A special presentation by Dale Martin of Agri-Services demonstrated a portable vat for making soft cheeses. This class was held at Clover Creek Cheese Cellar where Terry and David Rice have recently built their cheese plant and begun their own cheesemaking business after years of contracting with another cheesemaker to process their milk. Their experience and their willingness to share their story with the class contributed greatly to the feeling that participants had become part of a cheesemaking community on which they could depend for information and support going forward.
Also in July, a field day was hosted at Spring Bank Acres, where Raymond Fisher shared how he has improved his pastures with rotational grazing and an irrigation system. The day also included a tour of the milk bottling and yogurt making facility and his on-farm store where customers can buy raw milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, and at least six varieties of cheeses – all made on the farm.
The Art of Cheese, a full day pre-conference track at the 2008 Farming for the Future conference attracted 67 attendees. Melanie Dietrich Cochran, a reference on this grant and member of the conference planning committee, organized this all-day Thursday program, which included the following presentations:
1. Costs and Considerations & Packaging and Aging Artisan Cheeses (Peter Dixon, Dairy Farm Consulting)
2. Assessing and Balancing Production, Resources, and Marketing Goals (Krista Dittman & Charuth Van Beuzekom, Farmstead First)
3. Obtaining a Provisional Raw Milk Cheese Permit (Holly Foster, Chapels Creamery)
4. Artisan Cheese Plate (Ann Saxelby, Saxelby Cheesemongers)
5. Cooking with Farmstead Cheeses (Jason Turner, The Good Life Café)
6. Regulations for On-Farm Processing in PA (Paul Dix, PA Dept. of Agriculture)
Over 200 people attended the four value-added dairy related workshops held at the 2008 conference. In Raw Dairy Discussion with Mark McAfee, the conference keynote speaker delved into the history of raw dairy products and production on his farm, safety measures employed, and the choices he’s made to diversify his line of raw dairy products. Jim Amory’s Cheesemaking Demonstration was an 80 minute cheese 101 course, offering a live demonstration and discussion of techniques for making safe and saleable cheese, including acidity control, moisture, salt, and fat percentages. Equipping the Value-Added Dairy Farm with Dale Martin from Agri-Service presented an overview of what’s involved in adding or expanding on value-added production on your dairy farm. Discussion included equipment options and facility requirements, as well as sample plans, formulas, and money saving ideas. What You Need to Know to Transition Your Dairy to Organic offered practical information on this path to increased sustainability as well as detailing another way to add value to dairy.
Five field days held in 2008 attracted 132 participants. Ice Cream, Robotic Milking, and On-Farm Bottling offered an in-depth look at the ice cream making process at Chester Springs Creamery where over 35 flavors are manufactured and packaged weekly. Discussion included creamery business planning and financing, choosing the right equipment and managing employees and customers at a busy on-farm store. Participants saw ice cream production, toured the farm with a special presentation on the robotic milking system, heard a discussion of plans for a new microprocessor enabling on-farm pasteurizing and bottling, and learned how field crops and a CSA have helped to diversify farm revenue streams.
At Certified Organic, Grass-Based Dairy Farm, Elmer and Martha King of Triangle Organics showed how they have improved their pastures with rotational grazing of their dairy herd, composting pigs, and laying hens. After touring the pastures and milking parlor, the Kings discussed sanitation and safety regulations for liquid raw milk sales. Martha went on to give a hands-on demonstration of small-scale value-added dairy production, including basic recipes for cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese and yogurt, and discussed starters, cultures and recipe modifications.
Incorporating Value-Added Goat Dairy into a Diversified Farm Business gave participants an opportunity to tour the new milking parlor and cheesemaking facility at Paradise Gardens & Farm. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez walked through the whole process from starting a herd, to attending classes and workshops, securing funding to planning and layout of buildings, sourcing equipment through marketing and managing for quality. Many folks stuck around for an extended Q&A session, wherein she shared the research and resources they discovered in the process of developing new value-added dairy products.
Lacto fermentation, Canning, & Kitchen Sanitation Basics was a full day intensive where participants spent part of the day learning about lacto fermentation for beginners, including yogurt and kefir, as well as a discussion and demonstration of lacto fermented kimchi and sauerkraut. Sharon McDonald of the Blair County Cooperative Extension gave a detailed presentation on certified kitchens: sanitation requirements, food safety, and resources for getting started in value-added production.
Miniature Nubians & Goats’ Milk Skin Care Products offered participants a chance to learn the basics of operating a small goat dairy. Presentations included: securing funding, basic milking technique, soap-making demonstration, product development, recipe modification, packaging and marketing.
In response to numerous requests from our membership, PASA hosted a very successful hands-on intensive learning program that enabled 27 beginners to spend the day learning the basics of value-added dairy production, including: cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta, formigine, cream cheese, yogurt, and kefir. Demonstrations also covered smoked cheeses, flavoring with herbs, sanitation, and storage methods.
PASA offered two two-day pre-conference tracks in addition to three value-added dairy workshops at the 2009 Farming for the Future conference attracting over 175 participants. (This far exceeded our goal of 80 attendees.) Melanie Dietrich Cochran, a reference on this grant and member of the conference planning committee (and planner of the 2008 pre-conference value added dairy track) organized and oversaw the two pre-conference programs. Beginning Cheesemaking drew 47 new and aspiring cheesemakers, while 29 established cheesemakers attended the Advanced Cheesemaking track. Presentations included several concurrent sessions as well as sessions specific to each of the two tracks, including:
1. Costs & Considerations for a Start-up (Charuth Loth, Dutch Girl Creamery)
2. Sharing a Cheesemaking Facility (Charuth Loth, Dutch Girl Creamery)
3. Developing Basic Cheese Grading Skills (Cathy Pierce, Organic Valley)
4. Farm Snapshot (Emily Montgomery, Calkins Creamery)
5. The Influence of Raw Milk Quality and Sanitation on Cheese (Kerry Kaylegian, Penn State Univ. Dept. of Food Sciences)
6. Cheese Culture Technology (Margaret Morris, Glengarry Cheesemaking)
7. Farmstead Cheese Risk Reduction & Safety
8. Cheese Tasting & Evaluation (Emilio Mignucci, Di Bruno Brothers; Amy Sisti-Baum, Murrays)
9. Working with Distributors and Pairing Cheese & Beer (Sandy Miller, Painted Hand Farm; Jamie Moore, Eat ‘n Park Hospitality Group)
10. Making Goats’ Milk Soap (Diane Wiest, Brushwood Farm)
11. Creating Artisanal Gelato Using Local Ingredients (Violeta Edelman & Robb Duncan, Dolcezza Gelato)
12. Adding Yogurt to a Cheese Plant (Clare Seibert, Clear Spring Creamery; Mark Dietrich Cochran, Keswick Creamery)
13. Value-Added Panel
14. Retail Sales Panel
The 2009 conference also offered three value-added dairy related workshops, drawing over 100 participants. Farmstead Milk Regulations: PDA and Farmer Perspectives (Paul Dix, PA Dept. of Agriculture; Terry & David Rice, Clover Creek Cheese Cellar) covered regulations for milk sanitation and raw milk and raw aged cheese as well as how adhering to these regulations shaped the Rice’s experience proceeding with their value-added operation. Grass Never Tasted Better: The Development of a Farm-Based Creamery detailed Clare & Mark Seibert’s experience developing their grass-based, seasonal dairy farm with an on-farm Grade A processing facility, and included a review of financial performance. In Steps for Starting a Goat Dairy, Cathy Soult shared her experience starting a Grade A dairy, including planning and setup of the parlor, complying with the PA Dept. of Agriculture regulations, equipment choices, and the myriad hidden costs.
PASA’s goal for the 2009 field day season was to hold four field days attracting 200 farmers. In response to overwhelming demand for hands-on value added dairy production training, we opted to hold two additional intensive learning programs for a total of three and scheduled three rather than four field days. Unfortunately, the host for our third planned field day had to cancel the event, and we were unable to reschedule before the end of the season.
Comfortable Cows: Healthy Herd Management at Wholesome Dairy Farms highlighted a truly locally focused operation, with a small on farm store where they sell raw milk, aged raw milk cheeses, grass fed beef and milk-fed veal from grazing cows. Mena Hautau from Berks County Cooperative Extension led a pasture walk and discussion of soil fertility as it relates to herd health and nutrition and the results as expressed in high quality value-added dairy products.
Adding Value to Dairy: Ideas for Expanding Your Markets gave participants a chance to tour PASA Board President Kim Seeley’s 4th generation family farm, where the Seeleys are implementing innovative strategies to maximize farm sustainability and profits, paving the way for the next generation to take over this successful operation. En route to becoming a full-fledged creamery, Milky Way Farm has transitioned from selling excess fluid milk to turning it into chocolate milk, heavy cream, butter, a range of cheeses, and ice cream.
PASA hosted a very successful Intensive Learning Program on Advanced Cheesemaking that offered 14 licensed cheesemakers a chance to spend three full days with Peter Dixon making hard and soft cow and goat milk cheeses as well as getting in-depth instruction on various cheese recipes and styles, specific troubleshooting of extant problems, marketing considerations, cave design and aging strategies, and a guided tasting and critique of class members’ legal cheeses.
Modeled on 2008’s sold out Beginning Cheese intensive, and in response to continued requests from our membership, in 2009 PASA brought back not one but two day-long hands-on intensive learning programs that enabled 56 beginners to spend the day learning the basics of value-added dairy production, including: cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta, formigine, cream cheese, yogurt, and kefir. Demonstrations also covered smoked cheeses, flavoring with herbs, sanitation, and storage methods.
The 2010 Farming for the Future conference offered three daylong value-added dairy pre-conference tracks. Controlling Your Dairy Destiny demonstrated multiple avenues to success in a dairy operation, including innovative ways to individualize an existing dairy, buffering the current market, gaining insight and experience from successful farmers, and making connections to increase profitability. Sessions included:
• Market Forces and Pricing in the Global Economy (John Bunting, The Milkweed)
• Trade Policy and Anti-Trust Issues in the Dairy Industry (Michael Stumo, Coalition for a Prosperous America)
• Challenges and Opportunities of a Grass-Based Operation (Francis Thicke, Radiance Dairy)
• Innovation Success Stories (Sue Miller, Birchrun Hills Farm; Kim Seeley, Milky Way Dairy; Duane Hertzler, Moo Echo Farms)
Participants in the Value-Added Dairy track spent the day with experts sharing necessary information to get started processing excess fluid milk. Sessions included:
• Small-Scale Dairy Equipment (Frank Kipe, Micro Dairy Designs)
• Cultures Used in Dairy Processing (Dave Potter, Dairy Connection)
• Laying out a Plant Design (Peter Dixon, Consider Bardwell Farm)
• A Panel Discussion: Let’s Talk about Money (Adam Dean, Pasture Maid Dairy; Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez, Paradise Gardens and Farm; Clare Seibert, Clear Springs Creamery)
• Making Cheese (Pete Demchur, Shellbark Hollow Farm; Sue Miller, Birchrun Hills Farm)
• Getting Started with Raw Milk
• Dairy Products Available in PA (Seth Kalkstein, Farm Food Farmstand Phila)
• Bottling Milk & Yogurt (Adam Dean, Pasture Maid Dairy; Lucinda Hart- Gonzalez, Paradise Gardens and Farm)
Having organized beginning and advanced cheesemaking workshops, Melanie Dietrich Cochran coordinated Intermediate Cheesemaking, a track for experienced cheesemakers who had a plant in place already and were ready to make significant improvements to their products. After spending the morning with expert presenters on cheese culture and food safety, a guided tasting gave participants a chance to sample and evaluate one another’s products while hearing expert critiques. Sessions included:
• Cheese Culture Technology (Dave Potter, Dairy Connection)
• Food Safety for Cheesemakers (Peter Dixon, Consider Bardwell Farm)
• Cheese Evaluations (Jenny Harris, Tria; Jill Erber, Cheesetique)
Over 120 people attended the three value-added dairy related workshops held at the 2010 conference. Peter Dixon presented Aged to Perfection: Cheese Cave Design & Construction, an 80 minute in-depth discussion of how to tailor plans to the parameters of particular cheeses as well making the most of existing spaces. David Gary Cox of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund presented a workshop/discussion on Raw Milk Wars. And Dan Ray of StoneCroft Farm led From Goat to Market: Lessons Learned on a Microdairy, wherein he highlighted the plans and problems, challenges and surprises he and his family have encountered over the course of setting up and growing their dairy and herd.
• 3500 will learn about PASA’s field days, intensive learning programs and conference
During the first year of the project, more than 3,500 farmers learned about PASA’s field days, intensive learning programs and conference. 4,500 calendars, with complete program and registration information on the 30 educational events held including programming specific to value-added dairy production, were distributed in the spring. In making use of Constant Contact email services, we were able to send detailed information on our programming to over 3,900 recipients.
• 150 farmers/entrepreneurs will attend at least one of four field days
Our goal for the 2007 field day season was to hold four field days attracting 150 farmers, but only one field day was held with a total of 50 attendees.
• 35 will attend the intensive learning program
Our initial goal of reaching 35 farmers with one intensive turned out not to be possible given the nature of the material being covered and the limitations of hands-on cheesemaking. However, we were able to offer two intensive learning programs rather than one, and were able to extend an in depth experience to 24 participants.
• 15 will experiment with product development
In end of season surveys and in conversations with participants following the first year’s programming, 19 of 24 participants in the intensive experimented with new or improved products as a result of something learned in one of the programs.
• 80 will attend the pre-conference track or conference workshops
With 67 participants, our daylong Art of Cheese pre-conference track at the 2008 Farming for the Future conference was a great success. Melanie Dietrich Cochran, a member of our advisory committee, organized the all-day Thursday program. Our goal of 80 participants in conference programming was far exceeded between the 67 attending the pre-conference track and the over 200 participants in the four value-added dairy related workshops.
• 4,000 will learn about PASA’s field days, intensive learning programs, and annual conference
During the second year of the project, over 4,000 farmers learned about PASA’s field days, intensive learning programs and conference. 5,000 calendars were distributed in the spring, with complete program and registration information on the 21 educational events held including programming specific to value-added dairy production. Our continued use of Constant Contact email services enabled us to send detailed information on our programming to over 5,000 recipients.
• 175 farmers/entrepreneurs will attend at least one of four field days
As we were unable to schedule our 2007 goal, we added a fifth field day to the 2008 lineup. Over the course of this grant, PASA’s field day season underwent significant changes: with oversight of programming changing three times, a drop in field day attendance, and resulting alteration of event scopes. That said, the five field days attracted 132 participants.
• 35 will attend the intensive learning program
In response to numerous requests from our membership, PASA hosted a very successful hands-on intensive learning program that enabled 27 beginners to spend the day learning the basics of value-added dairy production.
• 15 will begin development/introduce product to market
Of those completing post-event surveys 42 participants noted that they had moved from interested in to experimenting with value-added dairy products, or from experimenting to distributing a product for market.
• 80 will attend the winter conference in early 2009
PASA offered two two-day pre-conference tracks in addition to three value-added dairy workshops at the 2009 Farming for the Future conference attracting over 175 participants – far exceeding our goal of 80. Melanie Dietrich Cochran, a reference on this grant and member of the conference planning committee, organized and oversaw the two pre-conference programs. Beginning Cheesemaking drew 47 new and aspiring cheesemakers, while 29 established cheesemakers attended the Advanced Cheesemaking track. The 2009 conference also offered three value-added dairy related workshops, drawing over 100 participants.
• 4275 will learn about PASA’s field days, intensive learning programs, and annual conference
During the third year of the project, over 4,275 farmers learned about PASA’s field days, intensive learning programs and conference. 5,000 calendars were distributed in the spring, with complete program and registration information on the 29 educational events held including programming specific to value-added dairy production. Our continued use of Constant Contact email services enabled us to send detailed information on our programming to over 6,000 recipients.
• 200 farmers/entrepreneurs will attend at least one of four field days
PASA’s goal for the 2009 field day season was to hold four field days attracting 200 farmers. In response to overwhelming demand for hands-on value added dairy production training, we opted to hold two additional intensive learning programs for a total of three rather than one and scheduled three rather than four field days. Unfortunately, the host for our third planned field day had to cancel the event, and we were unable to reschedule before the end of the season. As a result, we missed our goal, attracting 76 participants to field days.
• 35 will participate in the intensive learning program
By organizing three intensives, PASA was able to offer day and multi-day long hands-on value-added dairy production training for 70 farmers/entrepreneurs.
PASA hosted a very successful Intensive Learning Program on Advanced Cheesemaking that offered 14 licensed cheesemakers a chance to spend three full days working with Peter Dixon. Modeled on 2008’s sold out Beginning Cheese intensive, and in response to continued requests from our membership, PASA brought back not one but two day-long hands-on intensive learning programs that enabled 56 beginners to spend the day learning the basics of value-added dairy production.
• 15 will develop or introduce a product to market
In end of season surveys and in conversations with participants following the third year’s programming, 25 of the participants in the intensive learning programs and the pre-conference track experimented with new or improved products for market as a result of something learned in one of the programs.
• 100 will attend annual conference, five will seek follow-up assistance
The 2010 Farming for the Future conference offered three daylong value-added dairy pre-conference tracks attracting 113 participants and three conference workshops with over 120 farmers/entrepreneurs in attendance – far exceeding our goal of 100. Over the course of this grant, several cheesemakers moved from merely attending PASA value-added dairy programming to participating in planning and organizing events. Melanie Dietrich Cochran and Sue Miller contributed considerably, in particular helping to design the intermediate and advanced classes around lessons they learned and lessons they wished they’d learned earlier on. Peter Demchur, Sandy Miller, Diane Wiest, and Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez applied information learned, and went on to contribute as presenters in pre-conference track programming during the 2nd and 3rd years of this funding. The assistance sought and found by these and other farmer/entrepreneurs was instrumental in designing and implementing programming throughout the term of this grant.
During this project, PASA continued to engage interested dairy farmers, producers and those aspiring to become farmers and producers through our educational outreach programming. The first rate conference workshops, well-organized field day events and intensive learning programs detailed in this report as well as the feedback gathered in our exhaustive surveying demonstrate the efficacy of our programming, and the technical and educational needs still extant in the dairy and value-added dairy community.
Additional Project Outcomes
Impacts of Results/Outcomes
In the three years of this project, PASA logged 258 registrations for eight field day programming, 121 registrations for six intensive learning programs, at least 420 participants in nine individual conference workshops, and 256 participants in six full and multi-day pre-conference tracks.
In exit surveys administered at field days 96% noted that they learned what they hoped to learn at the event and 76% planned to make a change as a result of something learned at the event. End of season surveys showed that 86% made a change as a result of something learned at PASA value-added dairy programming. Changes noted included: bottling milk; developing products for sale such as cheese, butter, and yogurt; starting a small herd; building a cave for aging cheese, developing new recipes; opening an on-farm store; and expanding to new farmers’ markets. 35% said their operation is more profitable, and in open-ended survey questions responders noted that the following contributed to increased profitability: marketing information gathered at events; expanding production; improving consistency and quality of products; and expanding product line.
Electronic surveys conducted in 2007 and 2008 offered anonymous testimony from 12 farmers who noted that they had devoted serious time, money, and energy to experimenting with developing a value-added dairy product. Three introduced a product for market, six noted intention to implement changes, two are planning to add value-added dairy components to their operations and two took steps toward putting in a commercial kitchen or creamery. In addition, 79% benefited from the opportunity to learn from other farmers, while 68% benefited from the opportunity to learn from researchers and experts.
End of season surveys showed fourteen farmers had seen increased profitability. And in follow up interviews, seven discussed specific changes leading to increased profitability, including new marketing avenues (addition of or improvements on on-farm sales and farmers market sales), improved products, more consistent products, and increased range of products. Five farmers related that while they see increased profitability in their future, they are just starting out and have yet to establish markets for product and make back capital investments.
In surveys and interviews conducted throughout the term of this grant, 48 of 62 responders have devoted significant time, money, and energy to experimenting with developing a value-added dairy product for market after attending PASA programs. End of season surveys showed that 35% said their operation is more profitable, and seven farmers related that while they see increased profitability in their future, they are just starting out and have yet to establish markets for product and make back capital investments.
Areas needing additional study
All participants agreed that more programming is needed, from continued beginner level information to advanced training building on the programming provided by this project. Continued programming addressing beginning, intermediate, and advanced production methods, equipment and infrastructure, and marketing is also desirable and sought after on behalf of farmers aspiring to include value-added production to their operation as well as by established, successful producer/entrepreneurs.