Dairy Farmers of America has announced the acquisition of Maine-based Oakhurst Dairy and a merger with Syracuse, N.Y.-based Dairylea Cooperative.
The Oakhurst acquisition, approved on Jan. 31, retains current leadership of the business and employment for 200, and the Dairylea merger continues employment for more than 300 Dairylea employees.
Under the Oakhurst acquisition agreement, Oakhurst, a family-owned dairy, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Dairy Farmers of America and will continue to operate independently.
The Bennett family, which has owned Oakhurst since 1921, and the existing management team will continue to manage the company's day-to-day operations. John Bennett and Tom Brigham will continue in their role as Co-Presidents.
"For more than 90 years and three generations, my family has worked hard to build a strong local brand that Maine families trust," Oakhurst Chairman of the Board Bill Bennett said.
"This was a big decision for our family, but we believe it is what's best for the future of the company. Farmer-owned Dairy Farmers of America understands the importance of supporting local farmers and our community and has the financial strength to fuel new opportunities for growth and improvements in our Maine and New England operations. Oakhurst will continue to contribute to organizations that support healthy kids and the environment."
All 200 employees at the company will retain their positions. Oakhurst will continue to source its milk from the 70 independent Maine farmers. Processing and bottling will continue at the company's Portland, Maine location.
During a special meeting Feb. 5 in Syracuse, N.Y., members of Dairylea Cooperative Inc. approved a proposed merger with Dairy Farmers of America.
The merger will become official on April 1, and combines Dairylea's Northeast-based 1,200 members with DFA's 13,000 nationwide dairy farmer members.
The cooperatives have enjoyed a successful working relationship since DFA was formed in 1998. Working together, Dairylea and DFA have created efficiencies in milk assembly, transportation and marketing, as well as joint management of Farm Services and membership operations in the Northeast, an announcement said.
"In many ways, it will just be business as usual as we expand upon the working relationship DFA and Dairylea have established over the past 15 years," said Rick Smith, DFA president and chief executive officer.
Greg Wickham, Dairylea's chief executive officer, highlighted that the merger brings brands, plants and end products back to Dairylea members while maintaining the values, strategic goals and vision of Dairylea.
"This merger makes sense because DFA and Dairylea share strategic goals, our values align, our missions are similar, and our vision is the same," Wickham said. "Dairy farmers take pride in producing milk for consumer products and merging with DFA allows us to take our capital and assist with growing existing plants and brands to feed the world."
Although a national cooperative, DFA's structure ensures the Cooperative's Northeast Area Council will maintain local governance familiar to Dairylea members.
When the merger takes effect on April 1, Dairylea's nearly 300 employees will become employees of DFA and continue to provide service to Northeast dairy farms out of the offices currently shared by both Cooperatives in Syracuse, N.Y.
There will be no disruption in operations or milk procurement in the Northeast.