UNITY, Maine — Augusta-based Maine’s Own Organic Milk, or MOOMilk, an organic dairy company, has closed the deal on its first institutional account.
MOOMilk will be available to students when Unity’s cafeteria opens for the spring semester on Jan. 22.
Unity College President Stephen Mulkey said in a press release that the documentary titled “Betting the Farm,” which chronicles the development of the company and conveys the struggles of small dairy farmers, was pivotal in building institutional buy-in for working to bring MOOMilk to Unity College.
“The documentary has been a perfect teaching tool for our agriculture students,” said Sara Trunzo, Unity College Food and Farm Projects Coordinator. “Students have gained some more understanding of the hard work and risk involved with a career in agriculture. It’s easy to romanticize farming.”
Special events will be held from 11 a.m. to noon, Jan. 22, on the Unity College campus to celebrate MOOMilk being offered on a daily basis in the Wyman Commons. Also, a milk and cookie reception, sponsored by the Unity College Sustainability Office, will be held at 7 p.m. that day in the Student Center, with a screening of the documentary afterward.
“They’re not a traditional model. They are a low-profit limited liability company, so they’re a hybrid between a non-profit and a for-profit corporation,” said Sara Trunzo, Unity College food and farm projects coordinator.
Trunzo said that initially Unity saw potential to have sustainable agriculture students work with MOOMilk’s unique business model. Through the educational collaboration with the company, it became clear that the Unity-based environmental college could be pilot institution to serve the product, she said.
Over the past several semesters, Unity College has been using MOOMilk as an example of sustainable enterprise, and students have engaged in a variety of projects with the company, including visiting family farms and pursuing marketing projects.
Students who visited Tide Mill Farm in Edmunds, owned and operated by Aaron Bell and Carly DelSignore, came back with a sense of enthusiasm for supporting these and other organic dairies by having the college as a customer.
“Our sustainable agriculture students have been able to talk to growers about different business models and community collaborations,” said Trunzo. “Because change and growth has been so rapid with MOOMilk, students have had the opportunity to witness and understand the complexities of getting a product to market.”
Over the two years of the association between MOOMilk and Unity College, members of the college community have become strong advocates.
“Unity students are the best barometer of whether we are walking the talk (of being an environmental college), and they have really asked us to lead on the issue of local and sustainable foods in our dining services,” Trunzo said. “Our dining services has a longstanding tradition of buying local and initiatives like this one are a significant step in that direction.”
For Trunzo and many others on the Unity campus, working with MOOMilk to make it available has been both challenging and rewarding. “Because we’re the first institution to offer MOOMilk, all parties needed to be flexible. Our dining services team, MOOMilk staff, and Oakhurst dairy have all been willing to think creatively to make this effort a success.”
Trunzo hopes that other institutions will follow Unity’s lead. “Before our collaboration with MOOMilk, there really wasn’t a pathway for MOOMilk’s farmers to get their product into an institutional setting.”
Unity College is a private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.
An earlier version of this story contained errors. Maine’s Own Organic Milk, or MOOMilk, is an organic dairy company, not a cooperative. The date for the special events on the Unity College campus is Jan. 22, not Feb. 22.