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Small Farm Financial Services Can Grow Regional Economies

Warren Taylor is a 60-year-old, Ohio-born entrepreneur who used to work at Safeway’s Dairy Division Headquarters when the grocer was the world’s largest milk bottling company. In 2007, he and his wife Victoria decided to mortgage family-owned rural land to start a business to process and distribute products sourced from cows that graze the southeastern Ohio countryside. The plan was to capitalize on consumer demand for products raised through environmentally sustainable agricultural methods and bring jobs to one of Ohio’s poorest counties.

Five years later, Snowville Creamery has more than 30 employees and a million-dollar payroll. Its 2012 projection is for $5 million in sales to regional grocery stores and an ice cream company. In recent months, Snowville began turning a profit. In recent days, five more employees were hired.

Today, Warren Taylor plans to drive to the state capital. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan is scheduled to keynote a Columbus forum entitled, “Ohio Grown: Local Food Creating Local Opportunities.” Taylor intends to advocate for the idea that dairy processors like Snowville can be the foundation for community-based agricultural economies nationwide. Read more

Note to Ohio Governor: Repeal Bad Milk Labeling Rule

An alliance of consumer, farmer, environmental, ethical investor, and food safety groups yesterday urged Ohio Governor Ted Strickland to repeal a February 2008 emergency rule he issued for labeling dairy products in his state. The rule stipulates that Ohio’s dairy producers cannot use the widely used and understood term “rbGH-free” on labels and must rather describe products as “from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones.” The rule also requires that a disclaimer must be included stating that there is “no significant difference between milk from rbGH-treated cows and milk from untreated cows.”

The International Dairy Foods Association and the Organic Trade Association have mounted an appeal, and the Ohio courts have postponed enforcement of the rule until its resolution. On July 23 these associations will enter mediation with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The allied groups are encouraging opponents of the rule to write Governor Strickland and urge him to rescind it before the mediation gets underway. Read more

Making Local Matter in Ohio

When Michael Jones, a chef by trade, came to Columbus, Ohio back in 1995 he was surprised there weren’t more local foods available for purchase by restaurants. Since Columbus is situated smack dab in the middle of a state whose number one industry is agriculture, he thought fresh local produce would abound. He quickly learned that commodity crops ruled just as heavily as fast food restaurants. Fifteen years later there’s been a huge shift. “People are more aware of different types of cuisine and there is more and more awareness of local food and its importance,” says Jones; and he should know. As the Executive Director of Local Matters, a non-profit whose mission is simply to build supply and demand for local food and make it equally accessible to underserved neighborhoods, he’s had a hand in supporting it. Read more