Wednesday February 10, 2016 12:01 AM- Reading Eagle
By Jamie Klein, Reading, PA
Sherrie Krick slowly made her way through the milking barn on a foggy February night, softly prodding some of the 40 Holsteins in front of her, which was enough to encourage them into their milking slots.
Once the animals settled, Sherrie, her husband, Lynn, and daughter, Morgan, started milking. They use a vacuum system that attaches to a cow’s udders and suctions their milk through a pipe to a 2,000-gallon stainless steel tank.
It takes the family about two and a half hours to milk all of their 100 Holsteins.
The Krick farm is a family operation in Windsor Township owned by Lynn’s father, Arlan Krick. Their milk is delivered to Muhlenberg Township-based Clover Farms every other day.
Sherrie, Perry Elementary School’s cafeteria manager, knows that some of their milk might be served to her students, but she didn’t know her family’s hard work could be enjoyed by someone eating a treat from Sweet Street Desserts Inc., the Reading-based specialty bakery, in Australia.
“I would never have guessed that,” Sherrie said. “That’s cool.”
Milk is a global commodity, and the dairy market is a global industry. Berks farmers’ bank accounts feel it when milk prices drop, or such countries as China and Russia don’t buy American milk. But Berks milk is also widely consumed in the county.
“Some of our milk produced here in Berks County stays in Berks County, but some goes on to further processing (to) be included in products,” said Mat Haan, a Penn State Extension dairy educator. “It can go around the world.”
The U.S. exports roughly 12 percent of milk produced in the country, Haan said. That accounts for various types of milk, creams and cheeses.
There’s another avenue that takes Berks County milk around the world: through locally made baked goods and candies. Both Godiva Chocolatier, Exeter Township, and Sweet Street buy dairy products from Clover Farms, which gets milk from about 170 independent producers from Berks, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, said Cheryl Caruso, Clover Farms accounting director.
At Clover Farms, milk provided by farmers is turned into products such as whole milk, skim, 1 percent, 2 percent, chocolate milk and fresh whipping cream. These are products you’ll see in grocery stores and gas stations.
Most of the milk is packaged and sold throughout eastern Pennsylvania. Some milk ships to Harrisburg, and also New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, Caruso said. There’s even a distributor in Washington, D.C.
The sweet stuff
Dairy Farmers of America, which has a processing plant in Muhlenberg Township, buys milk from about 120 producers in Berks, Lebanon and Lancaster counties. DFA is a milk marketing cooperative and dairy food processor with more than 15,000 members throughout the country. Most of the milk processed at the Muhlenberg plant is turned into cream, then sold to ice cream and cheese producers, said Paul Slimmon, projects manager at DFA.
DFA also makes skim condensed milk, nonfat dry milk powder and whole milk powder, Slimmon said. You’ll find the powders in many products, including candy bars. DFA ships to Nestle, Mars Inc. and The Hershey Co.
“If you look at candy packaging and it says nonfat dried milk or something like that, that would be something that we may have supplied,” he said.
Other DFA plants have shipped products internationally, though most of what is made at the Berks facility stays in the United States, Slimmon said. The plant occasionally has shipped nonfat dried milk to Mexico, he said.
The company is proud to use local producers, and tries to ensure local farmers that milk is never wasted.
“Our purpose for this particular plant is to help bring value to the farmers themselves,” Slimmon said. “DFA is all farmer owned, so we actually help try to bring value to the milk they produce.”
Annually, Sweet Street buys about 2.1 million pounds of whipping cream and 500 pounds of milk from Clover Farms.
The milk and whipping cream are used in a myriad of products containing whipped cream or caramel, like the Oreo Cookie Bash pie, Salted Caramel Vanilla Crunch cake and Irish Cream Bash pie, said Justin Krasley, Sweet Street production manager,
The company has worked with Clover Farms for years. “Part of the company’s philosophy is sustainability and (using) locally sourced stuff,” he said.
Krasley, who lives in Maidencreek Township, passes dairy farms every day on his way to work. The idea that what the cows and farmers he sees are doing helps Sweet Street deliver treats to more than 70 countries is something, Krasley said. “That’s all right,” he said.
Contact Jamie Klein: 610-371-5016 or firstname.lastname@example.org.