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HVADC Program: Dairy Funding Accelerator Program

Mar 1, 2024

Five dairy farms start BTA and access to capital training

Monday, April 8, saw the first meeting of the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation’s Dairy Funding Accelerator Program (DFA). Expanding on the successes of HVADC’s Farm and Food Funding Accelerator (FFFA), DFA is a specialized Business Technical Assistance (BTA) training program for small-herd dairy farmers in New York, western Connecticut, western Massachusetts, southern Vermont, eastern New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania.


Five farms, operating with herds of 100 or fewer cows, sheep or goats, have been selected to take part in a 20-month intensive training curriculum, which includes virtual and in-person sessions.  Over the course of the nearly two-year program, the participants will receive personalized training and guidance from some of the regions best BTA practitioners. The DFA program’s focus on the individual business needs of participating farms will prepare some cohort members to apply for grants provided through the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC).

“The major goal these businesses have is to access new markets and grow their customer base,” said HVADC Business Services Coordinator Duane Stanton, who is facilitating the DFA program. “These farms all have great products, but coming from isolated areas it can be a real challenge to increase access and visibility. There are unique challenges for dairy farms. That’s what makes specializing the program to their needs really beneficial.”


All five DFA farms come to the program from rural regions and, though diverse in operation and goals, they share distinct challenges in their sector. They also share a passion for farming that became clear in just the first meeting.  

North Country Creamery in Keeseville, New York is a New York State certified woman-owned, value-added, first-generation dairy, producing artisan products with milk from 100% grass-fed cows since 2013. The Creamery is motivated to seek new markets after developing two new cow’s milk cheese products. They also are looking to support their growth with infrastructure improvements and assistance in becoming a worker owned cooperative.

Country Critters in Sterling, Connecticut is making a one-of-a kind-product. The Mexican caramel sauce called cajeta is traditionally made with just goat milk but Country Critters is adding sheep’s milk to the mix as well. To bring this unique item to market Country Critters will be using the DFA to create a plan for equipment acquisition.

Three Vermont dairies are represented in the cohort. Hillside Springs Homestead in Middletown Springs, Vermont, says their goal is to have the “tastiest and healthiest raw milk available.” In their on-site lab, Hillside Springs tests every milking for contaminants and bacteria to ensure product safety. They sell their milk, beef and goat meat through markets and CSAs but are looking to take advantage of DFA resources to develop a new marketing strategy and reach more customers.

The Goat Project in Bennington, Vermont, is a 12 goat strong farm run by Becca Knouss, who is looking to expand her product offerings from raw goat milk soap business to cheese making.  She is looking for grant funding for infrastructure expansion that will allow her to grow her herd and production.


Shepard Moon Farm in Corinth, Vermont, is making natural-rind cave-aged cheeses with a herd of 30+ sheep. Owner Dani Glover started the farm last year and is interested in using BTA to evaluate what the local market can support so Shepard Moon can grow at a deliberate and sustainable rate. Glover is looking to diversify the farm’s product line and expand operations, with a goal of 35,000 pounds of cheese annually. They too want to evaluate how to structure the business as a worker cooperative. Meeting peer farms with common interests and ideologies is a major benefit of HVADC Accelerator programming.


Glover said the first meeting of the DFA was exciting and represented a great opportunity to learn from business professionals and peers. “I’m excited to get to know the other participants,” Glover said. “I have small scale equipment but to scale up I need funding and business planning assistance, but the benefit of the (DFA program) is not just the resources, it’s the people I’ll get to talk to.”


HVADC is excited to expand access to its BTA programing beyond its traditional Hudson Valley footprint, employing a network of proven professionals who have helped hundreds of farm and food businesses reach their goals through HVADC programs.

Rose Wilson, a Vermont-based, highly accomplished strategic business planer who works with many dairy farmers, will assist DFA members with market development and feasibility studies, specialized to their specific needs.

“You need to do what you want to do, not what you think you have to do,” said Wilson, stressing that busy farmers are not just making a business plan, they are making a life plan. “We work on making unique plans based on skills and assets. Farmers need to ask themselves, ‘does my business plan get me where I want to be in life?’”

Other long-time HVADC BTA consultants have joined the DFA support team. Brian Zweig brings decades of experience in business opportunities and management skills to the table. His business planning and grant writing skills have proven to be evenly valuable to countless farmers throughout the north east.

Attorney Megan Harris-Pero is also on board as a DFA advisor. Her specialized agribusiness law expertise has helped many HVADC clients navigate the legalese inherent in the modern economy. Farmers shouldn’t also have to have a law degree to detangle the red tale around operating a successful dairy, and Harris-Pero will help the cohort demystify their legal obligations.

Like Zweig and Harris-Pero, business coach Sylke Chesterfield is a previous HVADC advisor, working with the FFFA program. With the DFA focusing specifically on dairy production Sylke will be able to help the cohort drill down to the core of their plans and help them enact meaningful change and stable expansion.

“HVADC has shown how BTA programming can help take new and small-scale farms to the next level,” said HVADC executive director Todd Erling. “The group of farmers we have assembled for the DFA are extremely promising, and with the aid of the some of the most talented BTA providers the region has to offer, we know our dairy farmers are set up for great success.”

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