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Greener pastures lead to greener markets

Dave Tighe and dairy farmers like him don’t mind watching grass grow.

Grazing

Mike Lamborn, a grazing specialist with the Dairy Farmers of America, talks Thursday about the health of a pasture at Dave and Gina Tighe’s dairy operation along County Road 142 north of West Mansfield. He is holding a device that calculates the dry matter in field, a key to analyzing whether or not the pasture has enough food for a herd. EXAMINER PHOTO | JOEL E. MAST

It’s integral to their livelihood, and carefully managing their pastures has opened a new market for their products.

Twice a month, milk from his 29 registered Jersey cows and from dairy herds at 11 other dairies is collected in Ohio, processed in Indiana and shipped to markets in the St. Paul-Minneapolis-area, all because the cows graze on grass as much as the weather allows.

Kemps, a dairy and milk distributor owned by Dairy Farmers of America, is marketing the milk under its newly created Sweet Meadows brand.

DFA representatives met Thursday at the Tighe operation off County Road 142 north of West Mansfield to talk about the start-up label and to discuss pasture management.

They reported consumers are most concerned about hormones and antibiotics in their dairy products. But after that, consumers want milk from cows grazing on family-run farm pastures.

Kemps was unable to find dairy farmers in the upper Midwest willing to drop their current milk hauling routines — relationships that grow deep over the generations — but found a perfect route in Ohio.

Covering farms in Logan, Hardin, Union, Champaign and Greene counties, the route is producing 15 loads a month. Kemps began taking two of the loads in January and appears ready to take more as demand grows for the Sweet Meadows brand.

Another 100 retail locations are set to carry the brand starting May 1.

The company may also expand its market outside the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.

If that happens, it will provide a more sustainable economic model for Mr. Tighe and his wife, Gina, and the other farmers on the route.

For more, check out Saturday's Examiner.

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