LA BELLE, Mo. — Milk Source, LLC has announced it has reached an agreement to purchase the dairy cow herd and operation from Sharpe Holdings, based in La Belle.
“This is an exciting purchase for us,” Milk Source Partner Jim Ostrom said of the acquisition of the 5,200-plus cow operation.
Ostrom, along with partners John Vosters and Todd Willer, said that the farm will be named La Belle Dairy because of Milk Source’s tradition of naming farms after the communities in which they reside.
“Our plan is to build on the foundation that was started by the late Charles Sharpe with Heartland Dairy and have La Belle be seen as one of the finest dairy farms in the country,” said Ostrom.
“We want our neighbors to know we are there and proud to be a part of their community,” he said.
The synergy that is created through the purchase will be of tremendous value to the community, Ostrom said.
“This is a great agricultural area and we will be able to utilize the exceptional crop farmers, such as Sharpe Holdings, within just a few miles of our farm to obtain the needed feed for our animals, and these same farmers will be able to purchase the valuable nutrients they need for their crops from the farm,” he said. “We look forward to this new relationship.”
Ostrom said that Milk Source is planning many upgrades to the farm in the next 18-24 months, including a new milking parlor and renovation on all of the buildings. He said the farm will employ between 40 and 60 people.
Robert Hambleton, General Manager at Sharpe Holdings, said, ““Heartland Farms will continue with its ministry through agriculture. We are looking forward to a great relationship with Milk Source and providing crops for the cows at the dairy.”
Charles N. Sharpe, Jr., a native of Lewis County, started the Heartland Dairy in 1997. Mr. Sharpe passed away on Feb. 1, 2017, but his passion for agriculture lives on in Sharpe Holdings, which currently owns in excess of 17,000 acres of land in Lewis, Shelby and Knox counties. Pastor Sharpe was the founder of the Heartland Community, which includes children’s, men’s and women’s recovery programs, Heartland Community Church, CNS International Ministries, Inc., Heartland Christian Academy and Heartland Christian College. Both in his for-profit and not-for-profit endeavors, Mr. Sharpe’s optimism is best summed up in two of his favorite phrases: “You can make a difference” and “Jesus is the answer!”
The economic impact of a modern dairy on a community is tremendous, with a recent University of Wisconsin study noting that the impact of a single cow is more than $34,000. Based on these calculations, La Belle Dairy’s local impact will be more than $176 million.
Milk Source owns dairy farms in the Midwest and has built a reputation as an industry leader in sustainable agriculture since it was first formed in 1994 after the three University of Wisconsin graduates joined forces.
“We like to tell the story of dairy farming in America,” Ostrom said. He pointed out that “we host nearly 11,000 tour guests every year and early next month we will be hosting a Breakfast on the Farm event for 4,000 people at our farm in Omro, Wis.”
Community outreach is paramount for Milk Source, which played a pivotal role in developing Dairy Cares of Wisconsin, a non-profit dairy-based organization that was founded in 2011 and has raised more than $630,000 for the benefit of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
Milk Source is a past winner of the IDFA’s International Innovative Dairy Farm of the Year honor, the WMC’s Business Friend of the Environment Award and has twice been named a finalist for the prestigious Aldo Leopold Award.
It developed a Milkweed and Monarchs program for its farms to increase habitat for the butterflies and also works closely with more than a half dozen local food pantries.