nymilk Brings Local Milk to New York’s Tables
By Alexa Besgen,
In the current recession, national organic brands have lowered what they pay their supplying farmers, making it tough for small organic operations to stay in business. What’s the solution? Buy local. nymilk, an organic dairy company selling milk and cheese produced solely in New York state, believes that buying local is better. What’s more, they have made a commitment to their 20 upstate New York farm suppliers to uphold the price they pay for the next two years, in order to keep the farmers going and the consumers happy.
nymilk has only recently appeared on store shelves, but it got its start six years ago, when farmers Dean Sparks and Dan France realized they shared a passion for organic farming. Both wanted to educate farmers about the benefits of farming organically, and also supply consumers with organic foods produced in New York state. They founded Empire Organics, and started educating the agricultural community about organics. The company started out as a distributor, selling product straight out of a refrigerated truck. They would give the farmers orders, pick them up and distribute them to forty-two retailers. Soon, Sparks and France realized that this was too time-consuming, but they didn’t want to give up their passion for organics. “We knew there was a real desire for locally-made, organic products,” Sparks said. “Especially on the part of New York retailers and consumers.”
Sparks and France both felt that it was important to get local organic milk in stores, while helping save farmers from going out of business. The result was nymilk.
France, an eighth-generation farmer who has been farming for 45 years in Schoharie County, NY, started farming organically twelve years ago, before it was popular. “I believe in the organic farming philosophy of not using chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics,” he said. “We are stewards of the land and the animals, and I want to leave the planet in better shape than I found it.”
Sparks, who started farming over ten years ago, has a similar mentality. Formerly the Grocery Manager at GreenStar, he said he supported selling any local product that came through the door. He also believes that there is a huge divide between farmers and retailers, which is a divide he hopes to mend. “There’s still a huge disconnect at the farmgate level and at grocery stores at the shelf level,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve worked on is trying to educate retailers and farmers. Retailers and farmers don’t understand what each other goes through.”
This dynamic duo has created packaging for the milk using HDPE recyclable plastic, which allows less light to penetrate, keeping more nutrients of the milk intact. The milk also has a low carbon footprint, because all of the farms are in New York State, which means it hasn’t been shipped across the country. It is also certified organic, meaning it was produced without the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones or pesticides.
Along with the milk, Sparks and France have just launched nycheese, which offers raw milk cheddar, pepper jack, colby and Monterey jack varieties. They hope to launch nyyogurt in the fall and eventually sell eggs and butter, too. A portion of each milk purchase is donated to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), an organization dedicated to creating a sustainable regional food system that is ecologically sound and economically viable.
GreenStar has been carrying nymilk since March, and has gallons and half-gallons of two-percent milk in the Grocery Department dairy case, as well as all four cheese varieties in eight-ounce blocks in the Deli’s cheese case.
Above all, Sparks and France want to change the way farmers and retailers interact while providing a fresh, local quality product for the consumers of New York. “For years,” France said, “consumers have been telling us they want to support a local, organic brand in New York. Our product gives them the opportunity to do so. We hope all consumers that are concerned about supporting local farmers get behind our brand and support it.”
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Ahhhh, just as you were indulging in images of hibernation as the cold wind whips against your windows, you then realize ... there's still another holiday to go! Yes, it's true, and GreenStar is here to make sure all of your holiday needs are met! Whether you're celebrating the change of seasons or following the traditions of your choice, we have all the wondrous things you need to make it special: organic and Fair Trade chocolates, candies, gingerbread kits, nogs of every kind, cream-filled cookies of gluten-free goodness, candy canes, spiced teas, holiday gummies, and chocolate-drizzled popcorn! Here's your last chance to titillate your taste buds before your conscience starts whispering at you to consider New Year's resolutions, to think about all those fasting and cleansing products you see in Wellness, and to wonder if eating that whole bag of Fair Trade Christmas tree chocolates was really such a hot idea....