By Lauren Dvonch
June 16th, 2021
When the Dairy Pricing Association contacted The Farmlink Project team about a load of powdered milk from an unknown location in the United States, Deals Team Lead Pete DiGiovanni, Hunger and Outreach Team Lead Lindsay Carlin, and Hunger and Outreach Team member Patrick Nasta were up for the challenge. Since April 2020, The Farmlink Project has moved almost six million gallons (the equivalent of over five million pounds) of milk, but has never dealt with reduced-substance powdered milk. Our team members were extremely excited to place this new product, but there was just one catch—when the DPA purchases the powdered milk, they do not know where the surplus is coming from. The purchased milk could be located at a dairy manufacturer anywhere in the United States. This poses a logistical obstacle for our team as the powdered milk needs to be transported to a food bank within five days of purchase. However, The Farmlink Project has never backed down from a challenge, so the Deals and Placement teams got to work.
Left to right--- Tom Olson, WI Dairy Producer/ DPA President/Member; Dan Byom retired WI Dairy Producer & DPA Member; Robin Berg DPA Founder & retired dairy producer; Tim Byom WI Dairy Producer & DPA Member; Keith Wilson WI Dairy Producer & DPA Member; Ron Kleibenstein retired dairy producer & DPA Promoter
The Dairy Pricing Association, also known as the DPA, supports dairy farmers by purchasing surplus dairy products and regulating the dairy market to ensure that farmers are paid a fair price for their product. Powdered milk is unique—unlike the typical produce that The Farmlink Project moves, powdered milk is shelf-stable and protein-rich. All it requires is to be mixed into water, making it an incredibly impactful and highly-nutritional alternative for those lacking access to refrigeration. For this reason, The Farmlink Project wanted to transport the powdered milk to a region where people would benefit from it most.
When the DPA first contacted The Farmlink Project about their supplies of powdered milk, Pete, Lindsay, and Patrick’s initial plan was to send it to the Texas-Mexico border to provide to children who had been separated from their families. Poor access to nutritious food and limited availability of refrigeration at the border meant that powdered milk would provide essential nutrition for those waiting to enter the United States. Initial transportation quotes to Texas were extremely expensive, so the Placement team began exploring other places in need to send the milk. Then, the waiting game began to see where the first shipment of powdered milk would be located.
When the DPA informed The Farmlink Project that the first order of powdered milk was coming from Darigold Plant Farm in Washington state, moving it to the Texas border became immediately out of the question due to very high transportation costs for such a long distance. Luckily, the Salt Lake City Mission in Utah was willing and able to accept the 40,000 pound delivery and distribute it to their network. In the future, when a powdered milk shipment pops up in a location where it is more logistically feasible to transport to the Texas border, it will be distributed to a food bank that can provide the powdered milk to families and individuals waiting to enter the country.
Left to right--- Tom Scheuerman, Food Resource Manager for Second Harvest Food Bank in Madison, WI; Tom Olson, WI Dairy Producer & DPA President, and Robin Berg, Founder of DPA. Scheuerman has since retired and Berg has switched from dairy to beef production.
The Dairy Pricing Association is an incredibly unique grassroots organization. It is run by volunteers who are farmers themselves, so they understand the difficulties and nuances of the dairy supply chain. The DPA has two goals: to support farms and farmers and to feed those in need. In the ten years since they were founded, they have provided 10.5 million pounds of fresh dairy products to those who are not able to afford dairy. The DPA never actually handles the products that they purchase; instead, they blindly purchase it from dairy manufacturers using funds from their 300 member farms and then look for humanitarian organizations like The Farmlink Project who are able to move the products to food banks or other distribution sites. Farms of any size can become a member of the DPA’s group and receive fair prices for their products while also providing fresh, healthy dairy to those who need it most.
The Farmlink Project is grateful to work alongside grassroots organizations who are working tirelessly to support farmers and tackle food access inequalities across the country. Our team is looking forward to continuing our relationship with the DPA and helping to transport more powdered milk to regions where it can have a large impact. Special thanks to Cyndi at the DPA for working closely with our team to coordinate deliveries and educate us on the nuances of the dairy supply chain.