Farm measuring demand for local dairy products


Would you buy milk, cheese or other products from a Park County dairy?

That’s something George Farms wants to know as it mulls whether to build its own milk processing plant and line of dairy products.

The George family, who operate a 550-cow dairy farm near Heart Mountain, has a vision to start offering items such as milk, cheese, cheese curds, butter or ice cream under their own brand. As they work to determine the feasibility of such an undertaking, the Georges are surveying local dairy consumers.

A 16-question survey has been posted online at Residents across the region are encouraged to fill it out.

“The more (respondents) the merrier,” said Forward Cody CEO James Klessens, whose economic development group is helping the Georges study the idea.

The questions ask locals for their opinion on the Georges’ concept, the potential product line and their purchasing habits — including how much they’re willing to pay. The survey follows focus groups with consumers and business owners and tours of 15 dairy facilities in Wisconsin back in August.

“The Georges came back with optimism, but still need numbers to prove the concept,” Klessens said in Forward Cody’s October newsletter.

George Farms is a third-generation operation located on Lane 17, roughly 12 miles northeast of Cody and 14 miles southwest of Powell. One of the possible ideas being batted around is to open a store at the dairy.

“Aside from selling their dairy products, potential ideas for a store include glass windows overlooking the production area, tours, soft-serve ice cream, drive-thru window, seasonal family events,” says a portion of the online survey.

Whether the vision can come to fruition depends in part on what locals think. The hundreds of survey responses (which have been overwhelmingly positive so far) will be combined with information from grocery stores, other dairies, analysis from consultant Ady Voltedge and other data so the George family can make a solid business decision, Klessens said.

A mix of state and federal dollars are helping fund the roughly $65,000 effort to determine whether a processing plant — which would be the only one of its kind in the state — is feasible.

“It’s a big decision,” said Klessens. “We’d love to be optimistic and say, ‘Yeah we’re sure it will work,’ but we can’t be sure; we have to be positive it will work.”

A plant would give the Georges more control over the value of their milk and the risk of their operation and potentially create dozens of new jobs, Klessens and the Georges have said.

Possible locations for the plant will be scouted this month, a business plan should be finished by December or January and then a decision will be made on whether to move forward.

“Hopefully it will be positive, but if it isn’t, we will at least know we made the right decision,” Klessens said.