Minn,, Wis. dairy farmers seek markets

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After 110 years, the Hastings Creamery closed its doors last week, putting stress on local dairy farmers to find a new way to process and sell their products.

Minnesota and Wisconsin farmers who worked with the dairy now are forced to sell their products on the spot market, hoping to find someone purchasing large quantities of milk, said Thom Peterson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

“They are either selling on the spot market, which is a problem because they may not get strong dollars, or they call creameries all over to find out who needs milk,” Peterson said, noting that in some cases they might have to dump the milk if they can’t find a buyer.

Of the 40 affected dairy farms, 14 are in Minnesota and 26 in Wisconsin, Peterson said. Minnesota has fewer than 2,000 dairy farms in total.

Before closing its doors, the Hastings Creamery had been working with the city and state agencies to remedy a number of issues, including a milk leak in June that led to the creamery being cut off from the city’s sewer system.

“We worked really hard to try to find solutions. I met with the owners and the farmers and the city and tried to put something together for them,” Peterson said. “At the end of the day, the waste water situation and the dairy economy added up to the perfect storm.”

Hope for future?

Local leaders are hoping that the creamery’s closure will only be temporary.

“You never want to see a business close, especially a business that has been in our community for 110 years,” said Hastings Mayor Mary Fasbender. “To see that come to a halt is sad for the community.”

Minnesota Sen. Judy Seeberger, who sits on the Senate Agriculture committee and represents Hastings, said she was surprised to learn that the creamery was closing but she has hope for what’s to come. She said she’s been in discussion with Petersen and others to seek a path forward for the continued operation of the creamery.

“I am hopeful that a new buyer will come along who can bring the creamery back online,” Seeberger said. “This has been an institution in the community for over 100 years.”

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