Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-operative
By Doug Brodhead, CEDTAP Volunteer
Caught in an era where multinational corporations are continuously pushing small, local businesses out of the market, the residents and
producers in the Millbank area (Perth County) created the Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-operative as an effective way to preserve
their small scale farming operations and keep the town’s economy alive. In an interesting, innovative new strategy, the residents and producers
collectively decided to utilize the strong local cooperation to create the Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-operative that would cater to
the smaller goat/specialty cheese and milk market in an effort to compete in a relatively untapped marketplace. By doing this, Mornington Dairy
Co-operative could ensure the sustainability of small scale farming operations by enabling dairy goat producers to add value to their raw milk by
turning it into quality cheeses and fluid milk for the retail market.
Millbank has always been an area largely reliant on the dairy market. When a large multinational corporation (Parmalat) purchased the local
dairy processing company and proceeded to shut down the local plant, residents and producers realized they had to do something to save the jobs
and livelihood of the community farmers and plant workers. Everyone involved knew that unless they remained cohesive, and together came up with a
long-term strategy; there would be a massive loss of jobs and a huge impact on the Millbank community’s economic infrastructure. After the closing
of the local cheese manufacturing plant residents and producers organized, “The Perth East Community Project”. This project brought together the community
and led to the planning and feasibility testing of different strategies for preserving the local capacity to manufacture and produce cheese and milk. Members
of the Project came up with the idea to develop a niche product that had extensive demand, i.e., the goat specialty cheese industry. Using this model as a guide,
the Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-operative was created in April 2000 and started to lease space at a farmer-owned, federally inspected cheese
processing facility located in Seaforth, Ontario. Since then the Co-op has been manufacturing and marketing a large variety of specialty goat cheeses made from milk produced by small, local farmers.
Although the Co-operative was successful and continued to provide a market for raw goat milk, members of the Perth East Community Project knew that their Co-operative could be a lot more efficient
and could potentially produce more dividends for those involved. This insight led the Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-operative to seek assistance from, among others, CEDTAP, to support
the creation of a new initiative. This new initiative was entitled, “Building a Partnership Between Goat Farmers and the Rural Community Members Plan”, and with CEDTAP’s assistance, the Perth
East Community Project employed the expertise of the Ontario Co-operative Association (OCA).
OCA helped to provide business and financial advice, identify and negotiate possible joint ventures and strategic alliances with prospective business and community partners, identify and develop
potential opportunities for the establishment of its own dairy and cheese manufacturing facility, and ensure sufficient cash flow to build the enterprise as it develops new product lines and
enter new markets. Suddenly, the Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-operative was examining new, progressive initiatives that would promote long-term sustainability for the co-operative
and provide increased revenue to the co-operative and the surrounding community.
Thanks to volunteers and staff at the Mornington Heritage Cheese
and Dairy Co-operative, the corporations and organizations that
donated or loaned MHCC, and technical assistance provided by OCA
and CEDTAP, Mornington Heritage Cheese and Dairy Co-operative has
become a life-line for the small-scale farming operations in the
Millbank area and continues to create a much needed market for raw
goats milk. For any additional information or questions regarding
Mornington Heritage Cheese Co-operative please contact Brad Lindner
by phone at (866) 995-9903, by e-mail at email@example.com,
or visit MHCC at 72 Church Street, Millbank, ON, N0K 1L0.