One of our recent posts generated a very strong discussion on foreign ownership of Dairy Processors in Australia. It is good to see that there are many sides to this topic and the passion that people are feeling about keeping local diary and Australian ownership.
I would like to share our own story, going from a Farmer supplier of our local cooperative, to a small hobby cheesery, to a stand-alone niche dairy processor.
20 years ago when we were suppliers to our local Co-op, most dairy processors were owned by the farmers themselves as Farmers Co-operatives.
I remember Malanda Milk being a profitable business, where the farmers received a decent return for their milk – though it never seemed like enough at the time – as well as dividends, but more importantly they had a say in the running of their business and their future.
After deregulation of the dairy industry in 2000 we chose to build our own little cheesery called Mungalli Creek Dairy, as milk payments were very low (below the cost of production) and farmers were leaving the industry in droves.
Our aspirations weren’t very big at the time and our original cheesery was just tacked on to our back shed. From this little space we hand crafted a small amount of our milk into yoghurt and speciality cheeses and were selling at local markets, a few stores and even selling to an organic distributor in Melbourne.
This small cheesery gave us a small amount of pocket money and gave us an outlet for our creativity. It also gave us the opportunity to get off farm and talk to our customers which was a nice change.
The rest of our milk went to our local Dairy Farmers co-op to be processed. We had been supplying this local Co-op since the sixties.
This happy synergy continued for a year or two until we received a letter to say that we could no longer supply both the local Co-op and ourselves with milk. They were going to stop dual supply i.e. a farmer could no longer sell milk to two processors. We’d never really thought of our little cheesery as being a milk processor – in my eyes it was a time consuming, money hungry hobby!
Suddenly we were confronted with the choice of shutting our little cheesery and supplying solely to Dairy Farmers or taking a huge leap of faith and going out on our own.
We decided to take the risk, to go out on our own, and turn our hobby into a stand-alone business. It was really terrifying as the Co-op had always purchased our milk, looked after the sales, distribution, marketing as well as compliance and now we had to do it ourselves!
It stretched us very thin but as they say, you only grow as a person when everything feels uncomfortable and this sure did. With a lot of dedication and hard work and the help of a good bank we pulled through and built a business and strong following.
At the same time the farmer suppliers of the local Co-op chose to sell their shares in their business. They received a huge cash injection for the sale of their shares and now the local farmers are faced with the challenges of being a commodity supplier to a multi-national.
Twenty years on, we have grown substantially and have invested any profits back into building a stronger business and future for our farmers. Our flagship brand, Mungalli Creek Dairy was started because of a love of the land, and a desire to make pure and healthy dairy products using natural biodynamic and organic farming practices.
As we found our niche in the market, we still saw that the effects that de-regulation of the dairy industry was having on our dairy farmers and our community were significant with more than 80% of local dairyfarmers exiting the industry .
So in 2010 when a young enthusiastic worker of ours wanted to start dairy farming we knew we could help make a difference and pave a new way for young farmers to enter the industry and for other farmers to have a choice of who they supplied, as the now internationally owned Dairy Farmers Factory was not accepting any new dairy farmers.
We saw an opportunity to create a local non-organic milk brand for this new to be farmer and some local Jersey herd farmers whose milk was just mixed with the mass of white milk produced by Dairy Farmers. This was how Misty Mountain Farms – Jersey Milk was born.
The instant consumer support for this new range of non-organic milk was great and showed that customers really did want a locally owned and produced product.
Each year our Misty Mountains Jersey Milk brand has continued to grow and now supports 5 local family farms with its own unique products and characteristics. It is a local brand to support the local industry, produced by local farmers and cows, and bottled at your local family owned processor – Mungalli Creek.
We are proud of the journey we have taken and the Biodynamic and conventional farmers that took that leap of faith to join us on this journey. Our unique business model now supports 9 farms across the two brands and over 75 staff. We are here for the long term and are proudly 100% Aussie owned from farmer to processor to shelf.
Our success is thanks to all the loyal customers who love our milk.
Thank you so much for your continuing support.