Strengthening community through enhancing the economic viability of dairy farming

2008 Annual Report for CNE08-040

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2008: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Becca Jablonski
Colorado State University

Strengthening community through enhancing the economic viability of dairy farming


The project began as Madison County’s innovative branding initiative, but has since been assumed by the Mohawk Valley and Leatherstocking Agricultural Region (MVLAR) Economic Development Team – giving it a broader base of regional support. MVLAR is represented by eight counties in Central New York. Its board members include economic developers, agricultural economic developers, Cornell Cooperative Extension agents and a representative from Empire State Development. MVLAR is still working with the marketing team hired by Madison County’s Agricultural Economic Development Program to complete the logo for the New York’s Central Harvest brand. MVLAR has initiated conversations with large retail stores, institutional suppliers and regional distributors concerning the “locally branded” products that they would like to carry. Additionally, MVLAR has held many meetings with regional dairy processors and grass-based farmers. There is broad-based support from the processors and farmers for this initiative. MVLAR has collectively agreed that the next step in this project is to use the NESARE funding to hire an independent contractor to write a business plan for the regional brand and product development.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • Convene farmer stakeholder group (grass-based dairy producer) meeting to discuss the production of a new grass-based butter at Queensboro Farm Products, Inc. in Canastota, NY (February 2009).

    Finalize logo development for New York’s Central Harvest (March 2009).

    Hire consultant to complete business plan for regional branding initiative (March 2009).

    Convene farmer stakeholder group (grass-based dairy producer) meeting to discuss contract with Queensboro (i.e. how much extra will participating producers receive for milk used in branded product) (March 2009).

    Process pilot product (grass-based butter) using milk from at least three farms under new regional brand (May 2009).

    Market grass-based butter through Chenango & Madison Bounty (local distribution system) as well as P&C grocery stores and Sodexo Foods (distributing to several local Universities) (November 2009).

    Expand product line and market (November 2009).


As we are still early in our project, our major accomplishment to date has been the ability to achieve broad-based support from regional economic developers (and the MVLAR group more generally), grass-based dairy farmers, dairy processors and several large retail and wholesale stores/distributors for the development of a regional brand that would add-value to farmers’ raw product. We currently have 10 farmers regularly attending meetings and anticipate an additional 20 farmers will participate in the project by the end of 2009. There have been regularly scheduled meetings with three dairy processors in Central New York, each of whom has provided pricing for a variety of potential products. Finally, there have been extremely positive meetings with a large scale retail grocery store based in Central New York, an institutional food distributor and two small-scale regional distributors who have ensured MVLAR of their intent to support the regional brand.

The grass-based dairy producer group with whom MVLAR is working has decided that the first product produced under the regional brand will be a grass-based dairy product. Queensboro Farm Products, Inc. in Canastota, NY has agreed to process this product. The grass-based dairy producer group decided that grass-based butter represented an untapped market with a long shelf-life. With the help of MVLAR, the decision was made that it is easier to market a product that is already created. Thus, the grass-based butter will be the first product under the regional brand. We anticipate its debut on the market in May of 2009. Many exciting things to come in 2009 – we look forward to the completion of the logo and business plan!

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

To date, the impact of this project has not been great, due to the fact that the logo is not finished and the brand has not been officially launched. However, the scope and scale of the distributors and retail outlets with whom MVLAR has had discussions points to the potential impact of this project. MVLAR’s willingness to assume responsibility for the regional branding initiative brings new contacts, networks and weight to the overall project.

2009 looks to be a devastating year for the dairy industry with Cornell’s dairy marketing experts predicting milk prices dropping below $14/cwt. Without the additional income from branded dairy products, Central New York is going to lose more of its already diminishing dairy industry. Beyond the 10 dairy farmers already attending regular meetings regarding the branding initiative, there have been several phone calls from other interested farmers. Additionally, Queensboro Farm Products, Inc., who is going to process the brand’s first product, a grass-based butter, has lost several bids/contracts this year. Queensboro is an integral part of Central New York’s dairy infrastructure and one of the potential impacts of this project is increasing the economic viability of the Canastota, NY landmark.

The impact of this project on non-agricultural audiences will increase once the brand is officially launched. Through the brand, farm tours and educational displays will be arranged throughout the community. It is through the engagement of the non-agricultural community about the benefits of supporting local farms that the regional branding initiative will be successful.