Monday, October 19, 2009

Pure Catskills Member Profile: Dirie Dairy Farm

Mary Anne Dirie helps a neighbor fill her milk containers from the bulk tank.

Head over Shandelee Mountain outside Livingston Manor in Sullivan County and you’ll notice a new sign along the road announcing, “Raw Milk Sold Here.” Since April, Richard and Mary Ann Dirie have been retailing raw milk from their farmstead. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets approved their license to sell the milk that is neither pasteurized nor processed. The Dirie’s worked with their milk inspector to ensure everything was in order for the license. The Dirie’s are now one of 25 farms approved by the State to sell raw milk. An upright cooler already in the milkhouse storing pastured chicken eggs now doubles
as the milk cooler – a natural fit. Surprisingly, the Dirie’s incurred no additional costs in acquiring the license or working with their inspector.

Customers can purchase one-gallon of Dirie Dairy Farm milk for $5; for customers bringing their own container, milk costs $4. Smaller containers are welcome and orders for five or more gallons receive a discount. A limited supply of farm-fresh eggs is also available at $3 per dozen. The Dirie’s encourage customers to stop by anytime since they’re almost always around taking care of chores on the farm.

Richard’s parents started the farm operation 1944. Currently, the Dirie’s are milking 40 to 50 Holsteins that eat a grass-based diet of pasture from May through November. Hay and silage hold the herd through winter months. Richard’s brother, Jim lives next door and produces maple syrup that is also available in the farm store and local retailers. Keeping with the family tradition, son Doug is now enrolled at SUNY -Cobleskill studying Agriculture.

The Dirie’s participated in “Farmstock” this summer, a series of dairy farm tours partially funded by Pure Catskills. Their tour was successful in connecting them with new customers and bringing families to the farm. Many visitors were excited to introduce their children to the cows, chickens and pigs around the barnyard.

According to Mary Ann, a large part of the raw milk business has been educating customers about the basics of farming. Many customers have questions like “Does the herd only produce milk seasonally?” or “How are the animals fed?” A few educated customers are purchasing several milk gallons at a time and processing their own cheese, yogurt or butter at home. Overall, the largest challenge for raw milk sales has been maintaining a consistent stream of customers. The Dirie’s state license limits sales to on-farm only, making for limited convenience to those not already passing by. To accommodate their customers’ needs, the Dirie’s are flexible
allowing morning container drop-offs and afternoon custome pick ups of freshly bottled milk.

The farm is located at 1345 Shandelee Road between the villages of Livingston Manor and Youngsville. For more information, contact the Dirie's at (845) 482-4301.

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