According to Melodia, there are two main avenues that could be taken to tap into this demand and help local farmers make more profit. One option would be for farmers to form a cooperative, pool their milk, and go in together in the creation of a Catskill or Upstate New York brand of milk. The other option would be for independent farmers to get connected individually with buyers in New York City.
Melodia said one of the first steps in looking for solutions is to assess local resources. Unfortunately, she said dairy processing plants that are willing to participate are few and far between. Melodia presented a map at the meeting showing the local processing plants, yet she said the majority of these plants were either not interested in negotiating and collaborating with farmers or did not have adequate room or resources to accommodate other farmers’ products.
Hudson Valley Fresh was presented by Melodia as an example of a successful partnership between farmers. A cooperative of 14 farms based in the Hudson Valley that pool, process, market and distribute their milk, Hudson Valley Fresh has seen 25 percent growth in sales each year since its founding in 2006.
Another example of farmer collaboration was Cayuga Milk Ingredients LLC. To save farmers’ hauling costs, farmers and local organizations in Cayuga County came together to open a processing plant, which will open in August 2014.
Availability of trucking is another resource that must be taken into account, Melodia said. Lucky Dog Food Hub in Hamden is a transportation and delivery company that will transport farmers’ products into the city for a fee of 15 percent of gross product value.
Melodia said a third resource to keep in mind is the availability of farms with their own processing capabilities. Cowbella is a family-owned and operated farm in Jefferson that makes its own butter and yogurt and distributes them in New York City. Shannon Mason, general manager for Cowbella Dairy Products, said the family is willing to let other farmers come into their facility, test out their processing capabilities and do some product development.