Low milk prices have been an issue for Amish farmers for quite a while now, pushing some out of the dairy business. So I was happy to see this story about Amish in the Conewango Valley, NY settlement taking some control back by going in strong on a revamped cheese plant. The facility manager explains:

“The facility has been Amish owned for a long time but they leased it to English folks,” manager Eric Hastings said. “The English folks moved out about four years ago and the Amish community here and the farmers decided that if they were going to do it, they were going to do it on their own. The Amish community completely revamped and overhauled the facility. It is really a state-of-the-art facility now. It took them about four years to do it, but now it is Amish owned and run and all the products are made by the Amish as well, coming from local farms in the Amish community.”

The point is that the facility can process the milk into less-perishable products like cheese and yogurt. This is a plain settlement which I believe does not permit technology like agitators, which would allow them to keep milk uniformly cool and adherent to the standards of a higher grade of milk.

Amish in plainer communities like this often have to sell their milk as Grade B – for products like cheese – rather than Grade A for drinking milk. So this provides them more control and an optimistic path forward:

“It was a perfect timing for us to start up, it’s already been able to start stabilizing their monthly milk check,” Hastings said. “We have not had to dump milk here at our farms, but the milk price has been terrible. It is not a stable milk market at all, that was forcing a lot of farms to get out. We hope to bring the next generation of farmers into the business.”

Though many Amish have gone into other types of business, many still believe farming is the “ideal” occupation. The Amish see the investment as helping assure not only their own future but that of their descendants, according to Hastings: “The guys who built this over the last four years, they volunteered their time so that way their grandchildren would have a stable milk market that can keep the farming tradition alive here in Conewango Valley.”

All best to the Conewango Valley Amish on their new venture.

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