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21 families purchase processing plant

Special for Farmshine

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – Twenty-one Harrisonburg, Virginia, area dairy farm families have come together as Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative and purchased the former Good Humor / Unilever plant in Hagerstown, Maryland, as Valley Pride, LLC.

The 21-member cooperative and city officials held a press conference aired on television stations local to the Harrisonburg, Va. and Hagerstown, Md. areas on Tuesday, August 27, where they unveiled the recent purchase and planned production to begin with 35 jobs in the processing of milk and ice cream under the Shenandoah Family Farms label.

Cooperative Vice President Randy Inman said that would be “the start.”

“As demand increases, we’ll be able to increase the amount of products and our production,” said Inman. He talked briefly about the “long road to where we are today.”

Hagerstown mayor David Gysberts praised the move, saying it falls right in line with “the local food movement.” He said as people seek these dairy products that are locally-produced, they will -- in effect -- create more jobs for the area. The plant previously employed nearly 400 workers before it was closed by Unilever last year.

A website and facebook page were also launched this week, proclaiming Shenandoah Family Farms as a 100% farmer-owned dairy cooperative located in the historic Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and specializing in producing high quality dairy products for the local community. All 21 farms are located within a couple-hour drive of the Hagerstown plant, according to the cooperative’s website.

The milk is described as “from grass fed cows on small herd, family farms, using natural and sustainable heritage farming practices.”

“We are dairy farmers,” reads the message to future consumers on the website. “Our parents were dairy farmers and so were our grandparents and great grandparents. Some of us are five generations deep. Our children want the chance to be farmers too, and we want that for them. To be close to the land and our animals, producing quality dairy products for our families, neighbors and community is our mission. We are a local cooperative that partners our farmers with our community and rewards our customers with the finest natural dairy products made with pride. Our names will be right on the label and you’ll know where it came from. From our family to yours, we want to be your farmer for generations to come.”