Micro Dairy Bottling

Farm Name: Marvic Dairy
Operator Name: Mark Williams
Production: Cattle Dairy
Markets: Grocers and Wholesale
Location: North Wilkesboro, Wilkes County, NC

“My goal is to acquire the full market value (value added) of my product, resulting in a 200-300 % increase in the price of my product. There is no way for small family farms to survive in today’s commercially dominated market without acquiring this value added from our farm products. Even larger farms are folding in this commercially-driven market atmosphere. Without value added revenue, small family farms will cease to exist.”

Mark Williams has been farming in North Carolina for all of his life. He grew up on a farm in the northern Piedmont of North Carolina doing flue cured tobacco with his family and then in mountainous Ashe County transitioning over to burley cured. His family also farmed dairy, poultry, cotton, and other crops typical to North Carolina. Williams attended school at Wilkes Community College, receiving an Associate’s degree in Animal Science, Marketing, and Business Law. After working for several years with the Lowe’s Corporation in marketing and internal security, he decided to begin his own operation. Mark started a dairy and beef operation in Wilkes County in 1979. He set up a direct marketing business plan for his grass-fed beef and helped others set up their own direct marketing operations in livestock products. Williams could not market his milk well because of the weakening dairy industry in North Carolina. His product could not be sold at a premium and the cost of having someone else legally process the milk was too great of an expense.

In 2012, Mark got a grant to vertically integrate the dairy operation on his farm by bottling his own milk and drinkable yogurt and selling it straight from the farm. This is a trend in the small dairies that are hanging on in North Carolina’s souring milk industry and in other areas of the country where dairy farming used to be very prosperous for a small farmer. Williams could pasteurize and bottle high quality milk and yogurt on the farm and sell it to consumers and vendors with his skills in direct marketing. The grant would enable him to purchase equipment necessary that he would not otherwise be able to afford from the profits of his small operation. He would require a pasteurizer, bottling machinery, and a 2,000 gallon chiller. Dairy is a very closely watched industry because there have been many issues with milk that is unsafe to drink getting to consumers. The small dairy is usually less likely to cause such outbreaks because their stocking density is at a safer level and the animals are treated better. The larger dairies needed to amp up their equipment in pasteurization and refrigeration in order to make their milk safe to sell. The small dairies that couldn’t afford such equipment had to stop selling their milk even though they were not usually the ones to blame for bad milk. In order for the small dairy to compete, they must adopt the same tactics and equipment that larger dairies did to keep going.

“As a well established dairy we have all the means and equipment necessary to produce high quality milk, but this project takes things a step further in allowing us to legally market a complete product from start to finish.”

Williams expects that the new equipment and his on-farm bottling and marketing initiative will allow him to make reasonable profits for his small dairy farm. He expects to receive a great increase in his product by adding value and marketing it himself.