Today Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) Educational & Charitable Foundation Director Ben Rainbolt announced the award of a $32,500 Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) from the USDA Rural Development division to Prairie Sunshine Products of La Junta, Colo.
The grant is for development of a goat milk dairy cooperative in Otero County. “Prairie Sunshine Products is building a creamery in La Junta,” Rainbolt said. “This RBEG money will fund a feasibility study and business plan for developing a network of milk suppliers on the co-op model. We are looking forward to helping build this exciting new business.”
At full capacity, Prairie Sunshine’s creamery can process milk from 5,000 goats into $8 million in organic and natural goat cheese per year. So they are looking for more goats. The cooperative will consist of goat dairies across southern Colorado. The initial plan is to put together a group of ten dairies to supply milk to the creamery. The co-op will also help producers get certified organic.
“The market created by the creamery could create a half dozen new goat dairies and dozens of new jobs in rural southern Colorado,” Rainbolt said. “The co-op model lets big operations and start-ups leverage resources so that everybody shares the risks and the rewards.”
Prairie Sunshine hopes to begin creamery operations in 2009. They have milk supply commitments that will meet their needs for the first year of operation. The co-op will help them move to their full capacity, producing 800 tons of goat cheese per year. And that takes 5,000 goats. “There are more than 40,000 goats in Colorado today,” Rainbolt said. “And more than 300,000 diary goats nationwide. Goat dairy products are a young, barely tapped market. It’s a recipe for success.”