Manitoba dairy farmers are now able to join the Ontario-based Gay Lea Foods Co-operative.
The decision was formally made at the co-op’s annual general meeting in Mississauga last week, but has been expected since Gay Lea Foods announced it was partnering with Vitalus Nutrition to expand milk-processing capacity in Manitoba last October. A refurbishment of an egg-processing facility in Winnipeg’s Fort Garry Industrial Park is currently underway, with the plant’s existing egg dryer being retrofitted for milk.
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“We are excited to have the full support of delegates to extend the membership opportunity to bovine dairy farmers in Manitoba,” said Steve Dolson, chairman of Gay Lea Foods. “As we expand into Manitoba… we welcome our fellow dairy farmers in Manitoba the same opportunity to be member owners.”
David Wiens, chairman of Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, also welcomed the news, adding producers have long expressed interest in having the option of joining a co-operative.
“Our producers are actually quite keen on it,” he said. “It’s been a number of years since we’ve had a dairy co-operative in the province and from time to time we’ve had producers in the province raise the possibility of establishing one, but just setting up a co-operative can be pretty difficult… it’s more than just processing milk, it’s also marketing and being successful at it.”
The co-operative has also named its first Manitoba director, Meredith Miller-Delichte, who operates Delichte Farms near St. Alphonse along with her husband Henry, to its board.
“When the Vitalus/Gay Lea joint venture was announced last year, my husband Henry and I were excited to learn more about the potential impact it could have on our farm, and on all dairy farms in Manitoba,” Miller-Delichte said.
Gay Lea representatives and Miller-Delichte will be travelling across the province in the coming months to speak to dairy producers about the co-operative and the membership process.