NEW WATERFORD, Ohio (WKBN) – The Mahoning Valley has a hidden gem – dairy farms.
There are more than 160 dairy herds in the area, and they can be big business.
Every year, farmers in the Mahoning Valley sell more than $60 million worth of milk, and farmers are looking for ways to make that number go even higher, even though the dairy industry isn’t exactly in a bull market right now.
“It’s bad. I don’t know where it’s going to end. From what I can hear, we have a surplus of milk. So where is this milk all going to go to?” Dairy farmer Kevin Baker said. “You can only ship it so far and you can only hold it for so long. So where are we going to go with this?”
Milk is at its lowest price in five years, and farmers expect that price to go even lower this summer, when schools cut back on orders. That has more and more farms trying to get creative. For the Bakers, that has meant on-farm bottling.
“Being the first ones to take the jump, we had to go through the most hoops,” Kasey Hudson said of the bottling process. “Because the inspectors, they didn’t really know what to expect out of our place. So they made sure to work with us vigorously on how to set up our system.”
In Burton, Hastings Dairy have a cow-to-bottle system set up in their barn.
“There seemed to be a demand for products that come right from the farm, and a demand for products people could see the whole process and know, this is where my milk is coming from,” Deb Hastings of Hastings Dairy in Burton, Ohio said.
Controlling a creamery means a direct route to consumers.
“We are controlling the feed that’s grown, how the animals are cared for, our milk product. We are controlling the entire process, from the feed being grown to the final step, our milk being bottled,” Hastings said. “It’s a sizable capital investment and a lot of time.”
At the Bakers’ dairy, the family will closely watch the commodities market to see what comes next.
“At least here, we are keeping some of the profit here on the farm by doing this, so we want to start pushing more through here. But it’s just not looking good,” Hudson said.
So far, only a few farmers are bottling their own milk, and those that are, can only keep a small part of it on the farm.
But they say it’s one way to try to stay afloat in the sinking market.