Middlebury Cooperative Milk Producers Association Inc. was established in 1938, and bargained through the Metropolitan Cooperative Milk Producers Bargaining Agency, Inc. The members delivered milk to the M.H. Renkin Dairy Company located in Middlebury Center, PA., changing later to the North East Dairy Cooperative Federation.
With the disintegration of the Federation in 1985 Middlebury Cooperative membership plummeted from 100 members to 0, and remained inactive for over a year. In 1986 Dietrich's Milk Products from Reading, bought the idle Middlebury Plant, modernized it, and started processing milk.
With the opening of a local plant, the opportunity was great for negotiating high premiums and low hauling. Middlebury Co-op took advantage of the possibilities and reorganized the local Middlebury Co-op. In reorganizing the new Co-op, policies were set forth to have it run by dairy farmers in the local area, with the knowledge of markets, and local wants and needs. There was to be no plants, stores, or any major capital investments made. Virtually eliminating the chances of assessing our members. Excess moneys above operating costs, have been returned to our members at the end of each year.
With 3 members in December of 1986 we have skyrocketed to approximately 130 in 1996. With the increased membership and volume of milk our bargaining position has strengthened tremendously. With our low overhead and the advantages of local markets and local milk for those markets, we have held our premiums high, and our hauling low, leaving our members with the greatest net return in the area.
Original Sign from 1938
Since 1996 the dairy industry has had many highs and lows, and Middlebury Cooperative was affected like everyone else. With industry changes and consumer input the world of a dairy farmer has changed drastically over the decades. Continuing to be a farmer owned and run co-op we are sensitive to these changes and the hardships that they have put on our family farms. We strive to have as little over-head cost as possible in an effort to give back as much as possible to the producers.
In the last 20 years not only have we seen changes to the industry as a whole, but within the Co-op as well. In 1986 Middlebury Co-op was re-instated by Don Gilman and Denny Graves, and a partnership was created with Dietrich’s Milk Plant in Middlebury Center. Since then both Don & Denny have retired from farming and our partnership with the milk plant has dissolved. We have also seen a steady rise in volume of milk, but a decrease in membership, which is a reflection of farming throughout the country. Small farms are harder to sustain and less desirable to large co-ops, creating the mind-set of “go big or get out”; despite this notion of bigger is better Middlebury Co-op continues to root for the “little guy”, the small family farm, the start-up farm, the hobby farm.
Although Middlebury Co-op may be a little fish in a big pond, especially when competing with DFA and Land-o-Lakes, we have been able to successfully market our milk to a variety of processing plants throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and now Maryland, and continue to give back excess money to our members at the end of every year