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Pennsylvania Ag News Headlines
Innovation in dairy - farmers find success beyond milk
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 02/12/2024

Driven by the desire for higher profits and family legacy, dairy farmers Jason Frye and Ken Smith embarked on journeys of transforming their milk into award-winning cheese and ice cream.

Frye, looking to move beyond low milk prices, saw cheese as a path to $36 per hundredweight, compared to potential losses on the standard milk market. His Creamery at Pleasant Lane Farms, launched in 2020, now boasts over 30 national awards and regional distribution.

Smith, motivated by his daughters' lack of interest in farm machinery and the joy of ice cream, created Moo Thru. This chain, strategically located near his farm and a major highway, gained national recognition through its unique barn-themed drive-thru and high-quality product.

Both farmers faced challenges. Frye, with no cheesemaking experience, relied on grants and mentorship to navigate production. Smith, through trial and error, perfected his ice cream base at an advanced course.

Success hinged on quality and market fit. Frye targeted Pittsburgh's high-income residents and underserved artisan cheese market. Smith capitalized on the affluent northern Virginia market.

Expansion plans are tempered by reality. Frye's focus is on scaling Gouda production with a grant, while Smith's daughter ensures quality control and prevents overexpansion.

Their experiences highlight the potential for dairy farmers to diversify and thrive through innovation and dedication to quality, even in the face of challenges and strategic considerations.

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