The HVADC Cultivator
Incubator Without Walls Client Spotlight - Ronnybrook Farm
For over 70 years, three generations of the Osofsky family have owned and operated Ronnybrook Farm Dairy in Pine Plains, New York. With a staff of about 50 support personnel, over 760 acres of crop, and over 100 Holsteins, they continue to produce dairy products the way they always have: in small batches and delivered at peak freshness. Chances are that somewhere along your grocery travels in the Tri-State area you have seen or purchased a Ronnybrook product, either their delicious high-quality line of milks – including those in their iconic glass bottles - drinkable yogurts, premium ice cream, butters or traditional yogurts. You may have even passed the Ronnybrook Store at the Chelsea Market in New York City. For years their motto has been: “Hopelessly out of date and proud of it.” While Ronnybrook may be proudly “out of date,” they most certainly aren’t out of touch. Some of the steps they have taken in recent years to solidify their business model will help them sustain the dairy for years to come.
In 2010, owner Rick Osofsky approached Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) and the Incubator Without Walls initiative for assistance with their plans to modernize and improve their bottling line capabilities. Having previously worked with Todd Erling, HVADC's Executive Director, Osofsky said that knowing Erling was attached to the project, and being familiar with his reputation, he was confident that this would be a valuable program to work with. HVADC was able to identify a funding source that allowed for the purchase and lease of a critical piece of equipment for the bottling line. Developing this creative lease-to-own solution allowed Ronnybrook to make the needed investment without overburdening its financial position.
Working through an expansion project for any business is never easy, but add the complications associated with a food business, and the hurdles become very challenging. As Ronnybrook began to plan an expansion of their production line, they again reached out to HVADC for some guidance. HVADC was able to connect the Osofskys with a dairy processing consultant who visited the farm several times. He was able to provide expert advice and suggestions for the layout, piping and additional equipment for the value-added products including yogurts, butters, and drinkable yogurts through multiple site visits and walk-throughs with Rick and the staff. This guidance allowed Ronnybrook to scale their operations effectively and efficiently.
HVADC is also proud to say that Ronnybrook Farm is an original member of Hudson Valley Bounty, a program of HVADC. Through this relationship, HVADC was able to hold a public screening of “The Big Table,” a six part documentary series about food, family and a way of life. The film won the audience award at the 2011 NYC Food Film Festival. This original documentary series is an intimate and compelling look at the lives of food producers.
The pilot episode of the series titled “MILK” features the Osofsky family. MILK offers a unique insight into the rewards along with the physical and emotional toll of life on a dairy farm that is struggling to survive in an industry that has been overtaken by giant corporations. The HVADC screening of the MILK was followed by a panel of speakers, including Rick and his brother Ronny Osofsky, who addressed a full house at the Olin Theatre in Bard College in February 2012.
According to Rick, as a small family or start-up farm, it can be difficult to find not only the correct resources that are applicable for a small-sized operation, but also resources that are affordable for small businesses. Referring to a relationship that HVADC facilitated with a local attorney who specializes in land conservation to help guide Ronnybrook through the purchase of development rights (PDR) process, he related that “HVADC is a tremendous resource for the farms and businesses of the Hudson Valley to have access to.”
Farms across Hudson Valley and all across the U.S. are highly vulnerable to development or conversion to non-farming use. In 2016, the HVADC referred attorney advised Ronnybrook on a PDR transaction with Dutchess Land Conservancy (DLC) to protect the Shultz Hill Farm - the part of the Ronnybrook property known as the “Home Farm” that was the original parcel purchased in the 1940s. Ronnybrook also utilized the attorney again in 2017 when they worked with Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC) and Scenic Hudson to complete two conservation easements to protect 210 acres of land. Development rights transactions and conservation easements help safeguard the property not only the farming, for current and future generations, but, in the case of Ronnybrook, helps to safeguard the region and the New York City food shed; allowing them to continue to supply those communities with fresh, local, high quality food.
Given the initiatives of creative financing, production expansion and property protection you will continue to see Ronnybrook products in your refrigerator and freezer for years to come.
For more information about Ronnybrook Farm please visit www.ronnybrook.com
For information about the HVADC Incubator Without Walls program please visit https://www.hvadc.org/iww