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Ferrisburgh dairy tries to sell local milk to county schools

MIDDLEBURY — As locally produced Monument Farms milk disappears from high school cafeterias in Addison County, another Vermont dairy is trying to fill the void.
Green Mountain Organic Creamery, a North Ferrisburgh dairy that makes organic milk under the brand name Kimball Brook Farm, last month began selling two kinds of flavored skim milk to students at Mount Abraham Union High School.
The company is working to get its milk into high school cafeterias in Middlebury and Vergennes, said Cheryl DeVos, co-owner of the company.
Kimball Brook Farm milk already is sold at about a dozen Vermont high schools, including Burlington, South Burlington, Colchester and Stowe, DeVos said. To meet federal rules that took effect over the summer, the company began producing milk in 12-ounce plastic bottles, replacing the 16-ounce containers that many high schools used to sell. Monument Farms, based in Weybridge, decided against switching to the smaller bottles, and its 16-ounce milk bottles no longer are available at local high schools (see main story).
“About 20 percent of our sales are in schools,” said DeVos, who founded Kimball Brook Farm with her husband, JD. “We said to ourselves, ‘We can’t lose that.’”
Kimball Brook Farm’s organic milk is more expensive than Monument Farms, which does not carry the organic designation. At Mount Abe, students are paying $2.50 for a 12-ounce bottle of the company’s chocolate- or maple-flavored milk. Last year, high school students typically paid $1.50 for a 16-ounce bottle of Monument Farms milk.
“This is local, but it’s also organic milk, so it costs a lot more to make it,” said DeVos. The dairy’s 200 cows eat only organic feed, and the animals do not receive hormones or antibiotics, she said. The cows must get at least 30 percent of their feed from grazing on fields free from synthetic nitrogen.
Non-organic farms use hormones and nitrogen to boost milk production and crop yields.
Green Mountain Organic Creamery has been selling milk since May 2012. The company employs 10 people at its plant in Hinesburg, and another six on its farm in North Ferrisburgh, DeVos said.
In addition to chocolate and maple, Kimball Brook Farm makes four cappuccino-flavored milks, DeVos said. In the final months of last school year, the company’s cappuccino milks were briefly available at the a la carte window at Middlebury Union High School.
DeVos said she is hoping to convince Cafe Services — the Londonderry, N.H., company that operates the cafeterias in Middlebury and Vergennes — to offer its products this year, too. A Cafe Services representative said that if the two schools decide to stock Kimball Brook milk, the cost to students likely would be in the neighborhood of $3 for a 12-ounce serving.
As a food service operation, Café Services typically charges more for the same product than a retail convenience or grocery store, said Mike Lewis, Cafe Services’ director of operations support services. Every high school is different, he added, and it’s unclear how much demand there would be at Middlebury and Vergennes for flavored milk at about $3 a bottle.
“It varies by school, what kind of disposable income the kids have,” Lewis said.
Laurie Bruce, food service director for Cafe Services in Middlebury, said she’s skeptical there would be sufficient interest to warrant stocking the MUHS cafeteria with $3 bottles of flavored milk.
DeVos said she’s going to keep trying.
“I went to Vergennes (Union High School) and I had two kids attend the Hannaford Career Center,” which is attached to MUHS, DeVos said. “My kids have gone to Middlebury. It’s really in the heart of where our business is, and it is really a local pride kind of thing.”
Editor’s note: This story was reported and written by Marvella Avery, Brady Larocque, Ashton Bates, Lucas Plouffe amd Collin Champine under the direction of teacher Matthew Cox.

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