Cheese purchase bucks up dairy industry

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2008

WASILLA - Three gold mining companies have purchased $75,000 worth of cheese from dairy farmers in the Matanuska Susitna region.

NovaGold Resources, Barrick Gold Corp. and Fairbanks Gold Mining Inc. each recently wrote a $25,000 check to the Alaska Farmers and Stockgrowers Inc. for 10,500 pounds of cheese made from local milk.

The money is helping to fund a new dairy near Palmer and is also projected to assist dairy farmers who have been without a market for most of their milk since the Matanuska Maid Dairy closed in mid-December.

About $56,000 was split among four dairy farmers, said Karen Olson, secretary of the stockgrowers group.

Roughly $16,000 was given to Kyle Beus, a former dairy farmer starting up the Matanuska Creamery with plans to sell dairy products made with local milk.

The stockgrowers group started selling cheese futures early this year as a way to generate income for farmers until the new dairy can start buying milk, Olson said.

While the farmers have sold some milk to the privately operated Northern Lights Dairy in Delta Junction, they have dumped tens of thousands of gallons since Mat Maid closed because they were unable to sell it.

Alaska Farmers and Stockgrowers is closely tied to the new creamery operation. The group's vice president, Rob Wells, partnered with Beus to start the Matanuska Creamery.

Lorna Shaw, a spokeswoman at Kinross, which runs the Fort Knox gold mine in Fairbanks, said buying the cheese is a way of giving back to another state industry.

The companies have requested that the cheese go to local food banks and charities, she said.

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