Dante Hesse runs a small organic dairy farm, Milk Thistle, in Ghent, NY and drives into NYC a few times a week to sell his organic milk. People line up to buy his milk for $5 a quart, even in this economy. But it’s this economy that’s keeping him from expanding to be able to produce and sell more milk, and perhaps, butter and cheese. National Public Radio (NPR) caught up with him at one of the farmers markets that he sells his milk at and talked to him about his business.

Hesse needs $700,000 loan to build the processing plant that would allow him to expand, but he can’t get a loan. He’s not giving up though. He’s turning to his customers who believe in him and his products and offering 6% interest for an investment of $1000 to those who are willing to take it on faith and invest in his dairy farm.
"We feel pretty strongly at this point that there are a lot of people out there who are interested in helping, and the way the economy is now, one argument might be that it's a bad time to be doing something like this," Hesse says. "But I think the inverse is true, that it's actually a good time because people are scared of the stock market, and they know that food is a vital part of survival. And local food is going to become very important in the very near future."
Is local food going to become very important in the near future? Let’s look at some things that are going on.
  • We’ve got the first lady talking about how important it is and doing what she can to support it.
  • According to Local Harvest, “the number of CSAs in the United States was estimated at 50 in 1990, and has since grown to over 2200.”
  • In Ohio, the number of farmers markets is increasing at such a rate that they are having trouble getting enough farmers to sell at them all.
  • In Central Jersey sales at farmers markets remain strong and are even showing growth and CSA’s are showing “significant jump in memberships.”
  • Small farms are surging as larger farms are having trouble because of the growing demand for local foods.
Looks like Hesse might be right. Local food is becoming increasingly important. The demand for it does not seem to be going away just because there is less cash in people’s pockets at the moment.

So what do you think of Hesse’s solution to his need to raise money? Would you invest in a small, local farm if you knew the business was solid at the moment?

For a look at this from more of a business perspective, see our business blogger Melissa's take in her post Support your local organic farmer.

Image: Tambako the Jaguar

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Got local organic milk. Need cash.
Small dairy farmer Dante Hesse needs money to expand. Find out how he's trying to raise it.