Investing in Community-Forward Farming at Berle Farm

by Katie Spring, Outreach & Content Specialist

On the eastern edge of Hoosick Falls, New York, just a few miles from Vermont’s Bennington border, Berle Farm extends over 600 acres of field and forest.  

For the past 33 years, Beatrice Berle has stewarded the land, growing vegetables, boiling maple syrup, pruning apple trees, making hay, and most importantly – milking cows.  Berle and her team process milk on the farm, turning it into yogurt and a variety of cheeses.  

“It’s a privilege to work with cows,” Beatrice said on a mid-December day when part of the NE-DBIC team visited her farm. “They teach boundaries: show up at the same time, take care of them, and they take care of you.  Milking is so mellow for me now.”  Which is good, since many aspects of farming are not mellow.   

Interstate Milk Shipping (IMS) licensing, for example.  

While farmers who process milk or yogurt for sales within their own state don’t need an IMS license, those who sell across state lines must meet additional requirements that include extra testing and special packaging. For Berle Farm, that includes IMS certified lids for their glass yogurt jars. While they’ve sold cheese and yogurt in Vermont and Massachusetts for years, pandemic-induced supply chain issues left the farm without an IMS certified lid for their yogurt.  As a result, they had to halt their interstate yogurt sales, cutting revenue by half.  At the same time, Beatrice was seeking ways to upgrade the on-farm facilities to meet IMS testing requirements rather than having to drive milk samples to an off-site lab.   

That’s where a grant from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center came in to help. 

With funding through the NE-DBIC Food Safety & Certification Grant, Berle Farm purchased a lab table required for antibiotic testing of milk, pasteurizer and freezer thermometers necessary for IMS documentation, new IMS lids, and a commercial dishwasher for sanitizing reusable glass yogurt jars.  

The process of finding new lids took months, with state officials suggesting Berle Farm buy from a manufacturer in Turkey. Determined to source supplies from the US, Beatrice eventually spoke with a sales rep at Mold Rite Plastics in Plattsburgh, NY.  The company agreed to collaborate, making federally inspected IMS certified lids that are now available to processors across the Northeast, making it feasible for more processors to consider replacing plastic containers with glass jars. 

With their upgraded on-farm facilities and certified lids, they received their IMS license and are once again shipping interstate.  Customers in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts appreciate how the glass jars help reduce plastic consumption. 

glass jars of Berle Farm organic yogurt

Anyone who visits Berle Farm will be able to see the farmers’ deep commitment to the environment and ethos of continual improvement.

When Beatrice tells the story of her farm, it goes well beyond herself and the property boundaries. Like many dairy farms across the Northeast, Berle Farm represents an interconnected local economy. From year-round and seasonal employees to hiring electricians, refrigeration technicians, carpenters, and mechanics, Beatrice noted it feels like the farm employs half the town.  Even the UPS driver is busy picking up mail-order gift boxes from the farm store. 

“After 33 years in business I can say this really works.  We have an amazing community, from kids to grandparents.  We have an electrician who comes when we need him; he installed the new dishwasher and then bought wreaths for his wife.  His father was the first person I ever moved cows with,” Beatrice said. 

“If you stay in the community long enough, if you just keep showing up, it becomes part of your culture.  People investing in community is a beautiful thing.”

Yogurt photo courtesy of Berle Farm  

Are you a dairy farmer or processor looking for funding to improve your food safety and expand market access? Learn more about the Dairy Food Safety & Certification Grant on our website.

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