February 1

Central Maine dairy farmers taking a wait and see approach to Oakhurst sale

Portland-based dairy said Friday its sale to a nationally owned cooperative won’t change things, including not using artificial hormones, and farmers are hoping that’s right.

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Yes, says Oakhurst Chairman Bill Bennett. “Having milk with no artificial growth hormone is important to our consumers so we remain committed to our pledge and will continue to pay our farmers to do so.”

In Norridgewock, dairy farmer Elroy Chartrand, 70, said he is comfortable with the sale and had expected the news.

“Before (Friday’s conference call) even happened, I told my wife, ‘I bet it has something to do with Oakhurst being sold.’ It was just a guess but the way things are changing in this world, it was something I expected,” said Chartrand, who owns Chartrand Farm, a 270-dairy cow operation.

Chartrand, who started shipping with Oakhurst in 1993, said he’s happy with the sale and doesn’t expect to have an effect on pay or job stability. The farm has seven employees, including Chartrand’s two sons and grandson.

Across Maine, farms and dairy companies have gotten bigger and the sale of Oakhurst is in line with that trend, he said.

Chuck Farrand, 54, who owns Farrand Farms, also in Norridgewock, said he had expected the sale since the death of Stan Bennett II, the former president of Oakhurst, in 2011. Although farmers were told Friday that operations will not change under the new management, Farrand said he thinks there will be gradual changes in the future, including the possibility of having to buy into the farmer-owned cooperative instead of being allowed to operate independently, he said.

“It won’t be the same I guess,” Farrand said. “They say there will be no changes but down the road I predict there will be.”

Jean McKeen, who runs Silver Maple Farms in Albion with her son Dennis, has sold about 28,000 pounds of milk to Oakhurst every other day. If, as promised, the sale changes nothing, she’ll be pleased. But after 40 years in the business, she’s learned to roll with what comes her way.

“I guess we’ve got to believe them and wait and see,” she said.

Mary Pols of the Portland Press Herald contributed to this story.

 

Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 rohm@centralmaine.com

 

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