Creating Producer-controlled and Consumer-oriented Dairy Markets in Southern Wisconsin
Sustainable dairy farmers with small operations are unable to compete in the today's markets because of exceptionally low prices. Likewise, consumers find a lower diversity and availability of dairy products.
Consumer concern about the environmental impact of dairy operations, as well as food safety and nutritional quality, heightens as corporate dairies control the milk markets. Consumers' continued purchasing of corporate dairy products are steadily forcing small operations out of business.
Objectives: 1) To develop the Family Farmer Cheese dairy cooperative, 2) to provide a fixed price to local dairy farmers for rBGH-free milk, 2) to maintain a small dairy niche market as well as relations with a family-owned cheese plant that purchases locally produced milk, and 3) to improve product quality while adapting sustainable agricultural practices to family dairies.
The producer set the fixed price to $16/cwt to allow farmers to receive a brand premium above the normal milk check amount for each pound of cheese sold under the brand name. He also arranged bi-weekly trucking and storage systems to transport dairy products between Plain, Madison and Milwaukee, WI. He then explored consumer buying habits and other important information to the small dairy business by conducting surveys and focus groups.
Results: Cooperative farmers attended workshops to learn to implement rotational grazing, organic and sustainable agricultural systems into their family dairy operations.
Family Farmer Cheese is marketed regularly through SHARE, South Central Wisconsin Food Fair-Community Action Coalition, Willy Street Cooperative Grocery in Madison, Rural Crisis Center in Missouri, Cedar Grove mail orders in Wisconsin and special events in Southern Wisconsin.