With the demand for milk taking a hit with the closure of schools and restaurants, one local dairy farm is hitting it out of the park.
When Mary Beth Brown, who owns Whoa Nellie Dairy in Acme with her husband, saw the news that dairy farms were having to dump milk supplies because of diminished demand related to the closure of schools and restaurants, they knew they wouldn’t receive a call from Schneider’s Dairy for their pickup order as the farm is on Schneider’s rotation with other dairy farms to distribute milk.
“Dumping milk down the drain right now when people are struggling, I just feel that’s a huge waste,” Brown said, adding that half of their milk supply goes to Schneider’s and the other half is bottled and sold by the farm and sent to other retail outlets. “We decided to try to not waste it.”
On April 11, she took to Facebook, posting about their mission to not waste a drop of milk, and telling readers their dairy was bottling all of its milk around the clock to sell.
“That little post exploded on social media,” she said.
The dairy sold out of milk and other dairy products within a few hours.
On average, Brown said a good week means 300 gallons of milk are sold. Last week, however, they’d sold over 500 gallons of milk by Wednesday.
Brown said the dairy’s milk is not homogenized so the cream rises to the top, and is bottled less than 24 hours after the cows are milked.
Brown believes she’s seeing a strong movement to support small businesses since COVID-19 restrictions started.
“People are standing in the cold for over an hour for milk,” she said, adding that those individuals aren’t upset when the product sells out, and they’re turned away. “They just want to support us. I believe we have that spirit among us that they want to see America succeed.”
She said small dairy farms were volatile businesses even before the coronavirus as big-box stores have been building milk plants and farms to dominate the milk market and push out the already dwindling family-owned farms.
That’s why Brown is hopeful that more people will buy local dairy products from farms like hers, or Schneider’s, Jackson Farms and United Dairy.
Recently, Connellsville Mayor Greg Lincoln started an online campaign to raise $2,000 for 50 gallons of Whoa Nellie Dairy’s milk every Thursday until the money raised runs out. The milk will be sent out with food boxes from the Connellsville Area Community Ministries for those in need.
On Friday, Lincoln said he was able to deliver a $2,500 check to the dairy, providing milk to CACM for at least the next three months.
Brown said her store also has a pay-it-forward program where customers can pay for an extra item to be given to someone who needs it.
“I’m really excited about what’s happening now,” Brown said. “Our community has been fantastic.”