The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

MOO Milk - Augusta, Maine

In 2009, when HP Hood dropped 10 organic milk producers in Washington, Aroostook, Penobscot, and Kennebec counties, the farmers were worried about their future. Over the past decade, Maine has lost more than 200 dairy farms, with only 300 remaining statewide. Instead of switching to non-organic milk products, or going out of business entirely, the farms decided to chart their own path.

Working with the Aroostook Farm Bureau, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), and the Maine Department of Agriculture, the group of 10 farmers created Maine's Own Organic Milk Company (MOO Milk), incorporating the company as an L3C in Vermont that year.

The unique nature of the L3C structure allows the company to procure non-traditional sources of funding capital, including foundation program related investments (PRI). PRIs allow foundations to recoup their original investments plus a return, which means they can recycle returned funds through multiple programs, providing maximum benefit at minimum cost.

Production began in January of 2010. "At the beginning, we had a surplus of supply, and not enough market," said MOO Milk Executive Director Bill Eldridge. "But I have to tell you that even in that first month, we were actually selling a lot of milk through outlets that didn't have an established market for organic milk. That's when I knew this was going to work."

As the market for their milk continued to catch up with their production capacity, MOO Milk found a unique way to sell their excess milk, developing a partnership with Good Shepherd and Wayside Kitchen Food Programs to supply fresh organic milk to the food pantries, shelters, soup kitchens and other institutions they serve by allowing donors to purchase milk directly from MOO Milk at wholesale prices and then donate it. "They get a tax break, and we can sell the milk," Eldridge said. "And with about 40 percent of the food kitchen customers being children, it's a good solution for everyone."

Despite some unexpected problems, MOO Milk ended the year in good shape. To date, MOO Milk products have been carried in 76 Hannaford stores, 16 WalMart Super Centers, 15 Whole Foods, and many other independent grocery and natural food stores - approximately 250 stores in New England.

Eldridge is bullish on the company's future. "We're not quite through the rough patches yet, but we're on our way," he said.

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