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Northeast DBIC Update - March 2023

Investing in Community-Forward Dairy at Berle Farm 

By Katie Spring, Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center at VAAFM 

On the eastern edge of Hoosick Falls, New York, just a few miles from Vermont’s Bennington border, Berle Farm extends over 600 acres of field and forest.  For the past 33 years, Beatrice Berle has stewarded the land, milking cows and processing milk into yogurt and cheeses on the farm. 

 “It's a privilege to work with cows,” Berle said on a mid-December day when part of the NE-DBIC team visited her farm. “They teach boundaries: show up at the same time, take care of them, and they take care of you.  Milking is so mellow for me now.”  Which is good, since many aspects of farming are not mellow.    

Interstate Milk Shipping (IMS) licensing, for example.  While farmers who process milk or yogurt for sales within their own state don’t need an IMS license, those who sell across state lines must meet additional requirements that include extra testing and special packaging. For Berle Farm, that includes IMS certified lids for their glass yogurt jars. When pandemic-induced supply chain issues left the farm without an IMS certified lid for their yogurt, they had to halt their interstate yogurt sales, cutting revenue by half.  At the same time, Berle was seeking ways to upgrade the on-farm facilities to meet IMS testing requirements rather than having to drive milk samples to an off-site lab. 

That’s where a grant from the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center came in to help. 

With funding through the NE-DBIC Food Safety & Certification Grant, Berle Farm purchased a lab table required for antibiotic testing of milk, pasteurizer and freezer thermometers necessary for IMS documentation, a commercial dishwasher for sanitizing reusable glass yogurt jars, and new IMS lids.   

The process of finding new lids took months, with state officials suggesting they buy from a manufacturer in Turkey. Determined to source supplies from the US, Berle eventually spoke with a sales rep at Mold Rite Plastics in Plattsburgh, NY.  The company agreed to collaborate, and IMS certified lids are now available to processors across the Northeast, making it feasible for more processors to consider replacing plastic containers with glass jars.  

With their upgraded on-farm facilities and certified lids, Berle Farm received their IMS license and are once again shipping interstate.  Customers in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts appreciate how the glass jars help reduce plastic consumption.  Thanks to the NE-DBIC grant and locally manufactured IMS lids, Berle Farm is deepening their economic and community impact, and plans to continue doing so. 

“If you stay in the community long enough, if you just keep showing up, it becomes part of your culture,” Berle said.  “People investing in community is a beautiful thing.” 

Learn more about the Food Safety & Certification Grant on our website:  


Dairy Farm Cohorts: A New Approach to Technical Assistance 

By Katie Spring, Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center at VAAFM 

Across the Northeast, dozens of dairy farmers are improving their production strategies and businesses through Dairy Farm Cohorts, an innovative approach to technical assistance funded by the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC). Through a mixture of one-on-one support and group farm visits, Cohort participants receive business and technical assistance over an 18 to 22-month period.  

To date, there have been five rounds of cohort-based technical assistance contracts. Here’s a look at three of the cohorts: 

In Vermont, Dr. Heather Darby of UVM is leading a cohort in cultivating a whole farm forage system that optimizes financial and environmental performance.

With 10 farms enrolled in this cohort, farmers are building a forage plan with the help of a diverse team of agronomists, animal nutritionists, grazing experts, and farm financial experts to assess the forage program across all levels of farm management. 

In Pennsylvania, Jessica Matthews and Lucas Waybright of PASA are leading a cohort titled Growing New Dairies with New Dairy Farmers.

With 5 farms in New York and 5 in Pennsylvania, this cohort complements the existing Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship educational curriculum and offers farmers both grazing and business planning support. 

Across Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, a cohort of 36 farms is receiving Climate Smart Farming Education, led by the CROPP Cooperative team.

This group of certified organic farmers are focusing on topics such as grazing, forage management, grass-based production systems, silvopasture/agroforestry, and alternative manure management. 

A new round of funding for Dairy Cohorts will open in March 6, 2023.  For more information visit 


NE-DBIC Grants Infuse Millions into Northeast Dairy Processing 

By Kim Burns, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets 

The Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC) is excited to announce a $13 million investment in dairy processing.  Through two grant opportunities, this funding will strengthen the dairy industry by investing in research, development, and expansion for processors across the Northeast.  

Dairy Processing Research & Development Innovation Grant 

Open to dairy processors, producer associations, and educational institutions across the Northeast, this grant offers funding to conduct research and development projects that support innovation for Northeast dairy processors across a variety of scales. 

Projects funded through this program will support dairy processors in gaining knowledge that leads to informed, long-term business investments with positive environmental and/or economic impacts. All projects will include an educational or information sharing component for other regional dairy processors. 
Awards will range from $75,000 - $250,000 with a 25% required match commitment.  Total funding equals $1 million. Applications are due on March 23rd, 2023.  

Existing Dairy Processor Expansion Grant 

With $12 million in total funding, this grant addresses the significant need for investment in processing infrastructure and focuses on expanding the utilization of regionally sourced milk, diversifying the supply chain, and acquiring specialized equipment needed to increase capacity.   

Three tiers of grant funding ranges will be available to processors at a variety of sizes. The pre-application period for the first and second tiers begins on March 16 and ends May 11, 2023. Third tier applications will be available in June. 

For more information about these two grants, contact the NE-DBIC team at 

Return to March 2023 Agriview