Delaware’s first organic producer, Natural Dairy Products, opens in Newark
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 22:10
After working with Natural Dairy Products to locate a site for the company’s new headquarters in Delaware, deputy director of the Delaware Economic Development Office Bernice Whaley said she was excited to participate in the facility’s ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 18.
“It was great,” Whaley said. “You could see the admiration that everyone has for the business and for the decisions they’ve made, and I just think it’s a great addition to the city of Newark.”
With the relocation of The Natural Dairy Products Corporation from Avondale, Pa. to Newark, the organic dairy distributor will bring 19 new jobs to Delaware, state officials said.
Whaley said when leaders in the company were looking for a site for their new facility, they reached out to the state economic development office for help. The potential for job growth and expansion made state officials interested in the possibility of Natural Dairy Products establishing headquarters in Delaware, she said.
According to a state development office press release, Natural Dairy Products was approved for a $140,169 Delaware Strategic Fund performance grant, job creation and a $134,831 capital expenditure grant.
Whaley said Natural Dairy Products brought 10 existing workers to Delaware and promised to add 19 additional jobs over a three-year period. She said the main factor in determining the grant money was the combination of the jobs brought to the state and the fact that the company was locating its headquarters in Delaware, which she said is particularly beneficial to the state economy.
Dawn Fenstermacher, general manager of Natural Dairy Products, said the state of Delaware welcomed the business with “open arms.”
“We were treated like we were bringing 100,000 jobs,” said Fenstermacher. “They just treated us very well, and it didn’t matter the size—they’re thankful to have the first organic dairy in the first state.”
Whaley said part of the state’s role was helping Natural Dairy Products find a good location for the facility. After looking for quite a while, the company found the 30,000 square-foot building on Markus Court in Newark to be perfect for its headquarters, Fenstermacher said.
Whaley said while she initially wanted to encourage Natural Dairy Products as a job creator, as she learned more she also became attracted to the fact that the company is run intelligently and would be the first organic dairy producer in the state.
“Originally it was because they were going to be bringing and creating jobs, and then when we found out what they were doing, we were very excited to be working with them,” Whaley said.
Natural Dairy Products began in 1994 when owner Ned MacArthur partnered with four local Pennsylvania-based farms to create a broader distribution for their organic milk, Fenstermacher said. She said MacArthur founded his business “way before organic was cool.”
With the “Natural By Nature” product line, Natural Dairy Products packages and distributes a range of dairy products nationally, Fenstermacher said. The milk comes from small family farms in Lancaster, Berks and Lebanon counties in Pennsylvania, where cows are grass-fed and no artificial growth hormones, herbicides or pesticides are used, Fenstermacher said.
Junior Elana Berk, co-founder of the student-run Down to Earth Food Co-Op, said she is excited Natural Dairy Products uses grass-fed cows. Berk said it is particularly important to buy dairy organic. She said after her roommate’s mother battled breast cancer, her doctor suggested she drink only organic milk, because the growth hormones in regular milk could threaten her health.
Whaley said she expects some Delaware farmers to go organic when they realize there is a distribution facility in Newark. She said she thinks this will have a positive influence on those thinking about switching to organic dairy, but the primary benefit for Delaware is job creation and possibly adding a successful business.
“There’s more and more people who now are reaching out to them and saying, ‘Now we want to do this,’” Whaley said. “The most important thing to us was the creation of jobs, putting them in a position where they could expand and grow.”
The economic development office encourages businesses by listening to any complaints they may have, Whaley said. She said the state often responds to these issues by connecting businesses with people that can help them resolve problems or by instituting policy changes.
Fenstermacher said Delaware is a good fit for Natural Dairy Products, and the move to Newark gives the business a chance for growth. The facility will allow the company to have a second shift of workers, which means Natural Dairy Products can quadruple its current volume of product, Fenstermacher said.
“What it provides us with is an opportunity for growth that we did not have previously,” Fenstermacher said. “We have enough capacity here to grow our sales, and of course, as we grow our sales that provides support for additional farms and families in the area.”
Fenstermacher said that in addition to the current operation, which includes milk, cheese and butter, Natural Dairy Products is looking to add yogurt and ice cream.
Once the facility is fully functional, Fenstermacher said she hopes students in the school of Agriculture and Natural Resources will be able to intern with Natural Dairy Products in the production and marketing sides of the business.
Berk said there is a need and a desire on campus for healthy, organic food. Berk said while Delaware has the agricultural resources to support local organic farming, many students do not have access to organics.
“It’s hard, especially if you don’t have a car or you can’t afford to go shop at Newark Natural Foods every week,” Berk said. “People want this food, but it’s not necessarily being delivered by the university.”