In 2009, H.P. Hood, a large Maine-based dairy company, released a number of small up-state farms from their production contracts. The farms were too small and too far way from Hood's main production facility to meet Hood's required price. The result? Overnight, a major proportion of each of the farm's revenue dried up.
The farmers talked to other organic milk companies but were not able to find a company that could buy their milk for a profitable price. Dairy farmers are, by and large, a hardy lot, so it's not surprising that they didn't let a little rejection get in their way. They decided to take things into their own hands and developed plans for a farmer-owned dairy co-op that would give them control over their financial destinies and get paid a fair price for their organic milk.
And so Maine's Organic Milk Company, also known as MOO Milk, was born. MOO Milk sold its first carton in 2010 and has been fighting to gain a foothold in the competitive dairy market ever since. Things have not been easy for MOO—the group had to operate without a proper marketing budget and has struggled to consistently sell enough milk to cover costs. The farmers had production troubles when their milk first started hitting store shelves (leaky containers) and a couple of founding farms have since dropped out.
MOO's prospects have improved in the last year or so as they've grown the distribution network, but the group's survival is still not assured. It's expensive to produce organic milk and even more so when you are doing it on a small scale.
It's a fascinating story that has been wonderfully captured on film by documentary filmmakers Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann. I had the chance to see their film, "Betting The Farm," last year and was driven by their story to become a regular MOO customer.
Take a few minutes and watch the trailer for "Betting The Farm" below:
Click over to MOO's website to see if MOO Milk is available in a store near you. Right now the milk can be found in Maine, Massachusetts and a few locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
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