About Rochdale Farms
Founded in 2009, Rochdale Farms is a cooperative of small-scale farmers including nearly 300 Amish farmers who practice traditional grass-based dairying and hand-milking from Wisconsin’s Driftless region. From farm to table, Rochdale Farms is dedicated helping producers and family farms bring artisan cheese, hand-rolled butter, and other dairy products to food co-ops throughout the upper Midwest. Purchases from Rochdale Farms helps to invest in lives of hundreds of farm families in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as helping to strengthen a cooperative food supply chain
Supporting small dairy farms during the pandemic
Since the impacts of the pandemic reached the United States, the volatility of the dairy market has been a challenge for Rochdale and the farms apart of their cooperative. Seemingly overnight restaurants and food service closed down quickly, resulting in drastic market changes which lead to milk dumping by large dairy companies. The effects can still be seen today— founder of Rochdale Farms, Mary Bess Michaletz, notes, the dairy industry is “the most volatile I’ve never seen…this is a once in a lifetime experience.” Dairy farmers are very vulnerable to market change. When market fluctuations occur, the challenge is reacting without having the flexibility to move quickly with the changing tide.
Red Barn Farms Collaboration
Due to decades of extreme fluctuations in commodity milk prices and production coupled with rising operating costs have pressured dairies to “get big or get out.” As a result, milk quality and animal welfare becomes compromised. In 2019, over 1,100 dairies in Minnesota and Wisconsin closed—many of which were small family farms.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Rochdale Farms partnered with Red Barn Farms to launch a local fair trade initiative to help preserve seven Wisconsin Dairy Farms apart of Red Barn Farms. The collaboration allows them to divert milk from several small farms to create two new cheeses.
The two new cheeses—Mild Cheddar and Colby Jack—help Red Barn Farms expand into new markets, fulfilling their mission to advocate for humane animal care and preserve small family dairy farms. For every pound of milk made into Red Barn cheese, their family farmers earn a fair trade pay price that ensures their businesses and way of small-scale farming will be around for the future.