June is Dairy Month.  In agricultural circles, the term “Value-Added” often implies a business venture through which an agricultural producer, or group of producers, further process a commodity in the value-chain that leads to the ultimate consumer.  But sometimes, the value-added of a value-added venture moves well beyond further processing of a commodity.

Such is the case with McCarty Family Farms in northwest Kansas that received a Value-Added Producer Grant and Rural Economic Development Loan from USDA Rural Development.

The McCarty family personifies a modern-day family farm…father and mother (Tom and Judy), four sons (Mike, Clay, David and Ken), their wives and children.  They operate three dairies in Rexford, Bird City and Scott City milking approximately 7,200 cows daily.  With assistance from USDA, they recently constructed and now operate a one-of-a kind evaporation plant at their Rexford operation in collaboration with the Dannon Company.

The new state-of-the-art plant, where extra water is removed from the raw milk, maximizes quality and environmental sustainability.  The cream is separated and transported to a sour cream manufacturer and all the condensed skim milk is pasteurized and loaded to tanker trucks for shipment for processing into yogurt.

That processing is value-added in and of itself.  But there is further value contributed to the economy when one considers the additional jobs created by the processing facility, the additional wages flowing into the local economy from those jobs and the additional children enrolled in the small rural schools surrounding the three dairies and the processing facility.  McCarty Family Farms has a workforce that now tops 100.

The value-added doesn’t stop there.  Remember the water extracted from the milk?   Approximately 39,000 gallons is reclaimed and re-circulated each day in the operation of the dairy, lessening the impact to the underground aquifer.  Because of the evaporation and condensation process – McCarty’s also achieve a 75 percent reduction in the number of trucks required to ship the milk to Dannon.  Less tankers means less fossil fuel use and less stress placed on the county roads and bridges over time that creates a significant environmental benefit, as well as a cost savings to the county.

However, the biggest “value-added” comes from the McCarty family itself.  They are a community and civic minded family.   After moving from Pennsylvania in 1999 they embraced, and were embraced by, the nearby communities because they purchase locally, contribute to schools and organizations and create jobs to help increase the rural populations of the High Plains.  The family, the dairies and the new processing facility add value every day to the quality of life in western Kansas.

To learn more about how USDA Rural Development programs can assist your farm, ranch or rural business, click here.