Niche markets offer outlet for dairy farms facing challenges

Niche markets offer outlet for dairy farms facing challenges
Glo-Crest Dairy Finds Niche in Mountain Fresh Creamery

GEORGIA, USA, (May 31, 2012) – Dairy farms across America are facing rising feed costs, rapidly increasing operating expenses and high land prices. Countless farms have closed permanently or penetrated niche markets to survive. ‘Go big or go home’ takes on new meaning for farmers struggling to survive in the southeast. 

Secondary to significant increases in feed and operating costs, small dairy farms in the northern region of Georgia are forced to close doors, expand operations or enter a niche market. “Today, about 85% of milk production comes from farms that are milking more than 1,000 cows. The smaller farmer can’t compete with the bigger dairies because of input costs. They [large dairy operations] can buy things so much cheaper. They can hedge on stuff and buy more quantities at a cheaper rate than the small dairy farmer,” stated Scott Glover, owner of Glo-Crest Dairy Farm and Mountain Fresh Creamery. Glover continues, “Now you’re seeing more and more farms doing stuff like we’re doing. They’re trying to market their own product and find a niche. A lot of them have opened up their farms to tours. They’re trying to find a way to make ends meet because they’ve realized they can’t compete with large dairy operations on product.”

The consensus among small dairy farmers in Georgia is that they have two choices: Expand and ‘go big’ or find a niche market to survive. Too often, operations cannot do either and are forced to close. Records indicate a 33% loss of dairy farms in the State of Georgia since 2002. This means one-third of all dairy operations once flourishing in Georgia have ceased operations in ten years. The federal government took notice to the trending hardships in 2008 and implemented the Milk Income Loss Contract. This supplemental program assists farmers to a degree, but cannot fully sustain farms which face additional outside factors, such as exorbitant land prices. 

Farmers who choose to ‘go big’ and expand operations to survive must purchase additional land for grazing and increase herd size. High land prices eradicate this choice for some and force others to relocate to regions where land is more feasible. 

The Glovers and many other farms have faced this scenario. Scott and Jennifer Glover contemplated uprooting their family and relocating dairy operations to southern Georgia or northern Florida where land was cheaper. After thoughtful deliberation, the creamery concept became apparent and they entered the niche market. A part of Georgia’s agritourism, Mountain Fresh Creamery operates in Clermont, Georgia and sells direct to the public, bottling all-natural, non-homogenized milk and stocking fresh butter and ice cream produced from their dairy. 

These adversarial economic conditions have brought small farms, from dairy to crop, to the brink of closure. Niche markets continue to provide an essential outlet for dairy farms across the nation facing challenges and increasingly antagonistic conditions. 

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