Written by Laura Gallup
Lively Run Dairy, subject of many articles in Edible Finger Lakes over the years, is stepping up to fill a crucial need created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The family-owned and operated cheesemaker in Interlaken, NY is buying up surplus milk (that would otherwise be thrown out) to make cheese – and donating it to local food banks.
The problem: farmers in upstate NY are being forced to dump milk because of oversupply. As the demand for milk from restaurants and institutions (like universities) has disappeared, dairy processing plants have had to start turning away milk. The plants have either reached full milk storage capacity, or weren’t designed to produce small, packaged dairy products for sale in grocery stores. Meanwhile, grocery stores are now seeing shortages of dairy products and food banks need more resources than ever to help people in need.
“When we started seeing photos sent from our dairy friends and articles being published about farmers having to dump milk, we connected the dots and realized that we could help turn the situation around,” said Pete Messmer, Head Cheesemaker and co-owner of Lively Run Dairy.
The solution: Lively Run is buying that surplus milk and turning it into cheese. But they need help.
Five days ago the company announced their plan with a GoFundMe campaign, and have since raised $37,245. They’ve changed their original goal from $20,000 to $40,000 – and local food banks will receive their first cheese shipments this Friday, April 24th. The donations help cover processing costs and will allow the company to make about 7,000 pounds of cheese in the next two months. Lively Run Dairy will not receive profit from this initiative.
Confirmed food banks so far are: Interlaken Food Pantry, South Seneca Ecumenical Food Pantry, Trumansburg Food Pantry, Lodi Presbyterian Church Food Pantry and Press Bay Food Hub. Messmer says he is hopeful that this approach could be turned into something to help other struggling dairy communities. “We are currently working with the Center for Transformative Action to set up an organization to support other small cheesemakers looking to recreate our model,” says Messer. “This could have a big impact.”
Want to help?
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Originally published April 23, 2020.