Dairy Farmers of Ontario is giving itself a rousing pat on the back for opening up its iron-clad rules against individual initiative just a little to allow members to experiment directly with the modern market place... which is a lot like the old-fashioned market place.
What the heck! Maybe DFO deserves a pat on the back for being able to clamber out of its box requiring uniform milk shipping by members, no exceptions, to big processors who package the product and sell it to consumers at a regulated price.
Itís an approach which is rapidly becoming outdated partly because thereís been little leeway for innovation. But after months of negotiations, DFO has permitted two members to do what dairy farmers used to do... sell their milk on site instead of transferring it to the central distribution system for a guaranteed monthly cheque.
After months of negotiations, the marketing board really had no choice but to allow the den Haans of the Alliston area and the Millers of Creemore to give customers what they wanted by installing on-farm fluid milk processing and sales facilities.
DFO calls it Project Farm Gate. It permits the board to start catching up with the surging trend of consumers choosing local food right from the farm and from farmers markets, preferably from producers they know and trust. As one example, witness the proliferation of weekend farmers markets in greater Ottawa, the latest located in Manotick.
Many of todayís shoppers want fresh local fruit, vegetables, meat... and milk. Until now, they couldnít get the milk unless they bought it raw from a helpful farmer who didnít mind risking the wrath of DFO.
At the den Haans Sheldon Creek Dairy, they can buy homegrown and packaged milk that isnít homogenized but has been pasteurized for the minimum 16 seconds required to meet health regulations.
The den Haans look at the farm dairy as a way to provide customers with whole milk in its freshest and healthiest form... confirming that DFOís main stock in trade, milk we buy at the supermarket, isnít the freshest and healthiest.
Consumers are reciprocating in droves, with more than 1,500 people dropping by Sheldon Creekís grand opening June 23.
Meanwhile, Millerís Dairy is finishing construction of a 5,600 square-ft. facility to process milk from 120 Jerseys and gearing up for a July 14 opening. Like the den Haans, investing in an on-site micro-dairy is a way to deliver a fresh top-quality product while growing a business thatís been in the familyís blood for generations.
And itís a return to a proud tradition, with John Millerís great grandfather Sam Bisset credited as Canadaís first dairy farmer to sell milk in a bottle, way back in 1896.
Even Martha Hall Findlay has got to love it!