By Katie Spring, Outreach & Content Specialist
In 2022, the Center for Dairy Excellence (CDE) received a Dairy Business Viability and Technical Assistance Grant to support dairy farmers and processors with marketing and brand development.
As a long-standing organization based in Pennsylvania, CDE has strong relationships with dairy farmers, processors, and service providers in the commonwealth. This kind of network is an important part of building resiliency within the dairy sector, and the Dairy Business Viability and Technical Assistance Grant gave them the ability to reach beyond state lines. With $65,000 in funding, plus $25,000 of matching funds, CDE connected 16 individual farms across New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania with service providers.
These farms received consulting assistance across a range of issues:
- Expanding a value-added business
- Adding new product lines
- Expanding into new market outlets
- Developing marketing strategies and food safety strategies
- Completing feasibility analyses
While NE-DBIC offers grants directly to dairy farmers and processors, technical assistance grants are an effective way to expand networks. This grant was the first introduction for many of the 16 farms
Jayne Sebright, Executive Director of the Center for Dairy Excellence, highlighted this, saying, “We have an 18-year history of awarding grants to farmers, and we’re well known in the community. By us applying for the grant, we were able to stretch the dollars further to reach more farms, instead of individual farms applying for a smaller award. Farmers didn’t have to navigate the application process with federal funding requirements, so it was a simpler process for them. The other advantage is we didn’t charge for our time – that was part of our match – so we were able to give all dollars directly to farms.”
As the conduit for technical assistance, CDE helped identify and match service providers with farmers and processors.
“Farms need business acumen and coaching, especially as they evolve from single small farm operations to larger farms with several enterprises,” Sebright said. One of those service providers is Kitchen Table Consultants, which worked with twelve farms through this grant.
A few of those farms and projects include:
- Clear Spring Creamery of Maryland, who developed a 3-to-5-year plan on how to grow their business
- Destiny Dairy Bar of Pennsylvania, who developed short and long-term budgets for their value-added fluid milk business
- Harmony Acres Dairy of Pennsylvania who developed a plan to introduce a new brand alongside value-added products
- Gorgeous Goat Creamery of New Jersey, who did a market analysis and feasibility study on value-added business growth
From May 2022 through June 2023, the consultants brought technical expertise to their work with dairy farmers and processors, navigating challenging decisions and farm planning processes. “Anytime you can help farmers think through their business, that leads them to be more resilient in the end,” Sebright said.
Regional resilience, as Sebright puts it, isn’t one specific thing. “It’s having farms that are financially viable and capable of transitioning to the next generation,” she said. “It’s not just getting products into the hands of consumers, but also having services and supply infrastructure to support farms. All the pieces need to work together positively. Without any one of them you lose that resiliency.”
The 16 farms that received technical assistance were each satisfied with their project accomplishments. Producers reported that their improved marketing and planning strategies led to increased sales and new market outlets to grow their businesses, which in turn improved their lifestyle satisfaction – and that’s another factor that leads to greater resilience.
As we turn toward the end of 2023, NE-DBIC will be releasing more grants for farmers, processors, and technical service providers. Learn more on our grants page.
photo courtesy of Center for Dairy Excellence; Ariel Herrod of Clear Spring Creamery in Maryland