||Not that long ago there were 80 dairy farms in Rhode Island. Since then, many of them have gone out of business. It's a problem faced by agriculture in many areas across the country. An aging farm population and the encroachment of urban development into rural areas. Or here in Rhode Island, issues surrounding the price of milk and high land values are forcing producers out of business. The demand for subdivisions has raised the price of farmland so high in taxes that in many of the communities it's taken a lot of the farmers out. Faced with an uncertain future, the few remaining dairy farmers in Rhode Island decided to band together. Their idea was to create a locally-produced, home grown brand of milk. They would call it Rhody Fresh.
Starting out with a $125,000 dollar loan to cover startup costs along with additional funding from the State of Rhode Island helped kick-start the launch of Rhody Fresh. As with any new business, there was a lot to learn. For example, how would they collect, transport, process and distribute their special brand of milk? Fortunately, one of the co-op members ran a milk transportation business which filled in that gap. The next step was finding a processing plant. They chose Guida's Dairy in New Britain, Connecticut.
Guida processes close to 160,000 gallons of raw milk a day. It comes in on large tanker trucks 24/7. The milk is homogenized, pasteurized, and packaged for distribution.
The Rhode Island Co-op launched a marketing campaign when they began back in 2004. Posters across the state reminded consumers these were local dairy farmers at work. Co-Op member Jessie Dutra says, "People of Rhode Island have really given Rhody Fresh some tremendous support." She thinks the effort to support area farms is being seen all across the country as consumers place greater emphasis on "buying local." "It's added value to the state as a whole by opening people's eyes to educating people and getting people to realize the importance of local — the importance of farms for their product."
And the work paid off. Within the first six months, Rhody Fresh met their 3-year projected goal and in 2007 they saw a 30% increase in sales as well. It was exciting to taste that success and to be a household name. Rhody Fresh knew they had a good product.