Unity dairy farm gets grant funding for expansion into cheese production
A Unity dairy farm is one of the beneficiaries of a new grant program designed to help Pennsylvania dairy farmers thrive at a difficult time for the industry.
Pleasant Lane Farms, near Pleasant Unity, received $364,082 in grant funding from the new Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program — $286,744 to build a creamery for cheesemaking and $77,338 for marketing costs and the construction of an on-farm classroom and tour facility, Gov. Tom Wolf said.
The farm, founded by Marine Corps veteran Ralph Frye Jr. in 1976, learned about the grant opportunity in October during a tour by Pennsylvania Adjutant General Anthony Carrelli and Michael Smith, former executive deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
“We’re thrilled that their application was successful,” said Mimi Thomas-Brooker, coordinator of the Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Project, which organized the tour.
A producer for Turner Dairy Farms in Penn Hills, Pleasant Lane averages 22,000 pounds of milk per cow per year. Frye farms the 184 acres with his sons, Todd, Jason and Chad, who have helped expand the operation into beekeeping, beef cattle and hogs.
Last fall, Jason Frye said a robotic milking facility and a cheese facility are in the planning stages, which could increase the number of milking cows from the current 44 up to 64. Cheese production will give the farm a profit margin that it currently doesn’t have with liquid milk, he said.
On Tuesday, Wolf announced $8 million in grants and low-interest loans to Pennsylvania farmers, including $5 million through the Pennsylvania Dairy Investment Program.
“The grants approved today are just the beginning of our mission to help modernize and support our dairy industry in a challenging, rapidly changing business environment,” Wolf said in a statement, noting that his 2019-20 budget includes funding for the program.
The grants are meant to help dairy farmers research new technologies, reach new markets, explore new business opportunities, transition to organic production methods and expand value-added dairy production, such as cheese and yogurt products.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .