FALMOUTH — Organic milk producer MOO Milk announced Friday morning that it will close because of obsolete equipment and failure to build a new packaging facility in central Maine.
“While we have worked tirelessly to find an alternative solution, including the possibility of building a new facility in central Maine, we realize these options are not possible in the short timeframe needed to keep the retail brand viable,” MOO Milk CEO Bill Eldridge said in a letter announcing the closure. “Therefore it is with deep regret that we announce the end of MOO Milk as we know it.”
The company said in a news release that it is taking its product off the shelves and diverting contracts it has with 12 organic dairy farms in the state to Stonyfield’s yogurt-making facility in Londonderry, New Hampshire. That facility arranges long-term contracts for member farmers with Stonyfield, Organic Valley, Oakhurst and others, according to a company statement.
Since the company started production in 2010, it has processed all of its milk at Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook, using a carton filling machine decommissioned by Oakhurst and donated to MOO Milk. The company said in its release that the machine broke down often and was unable to meet quality standards.
In the statement, Eldridge said the company is able to pay its creditors.
“We have adequate cash on hand to honor all of our current financial commitments,” Eldridge said, “and while demand for our milk has been stronger than ever, we simply lost the ability to process our milk, which effectively puts an end to the MOO brand.”
Almost a year ago, the company announced a $3 million anonymous donation through the group Slow Money Maine that its leaders expected would keep it operational for the foreseeable future.
Eleanor Kinney, a member of Slow Money Maine and investor in MOO Milk said at the time the money would be used to boost the company’s marketing budget. At the time, it produced around 11,000 gallons of milk per week.
The company’s effort to provide processing for organic dairy farmers received attention and praise from beyond Slow Money as well.
In 2012, the farm was the subject of a documentary titled “Betting the Farm.” The company has struggled in the past and in 2011 nearly closed because of high organic milk prices and a shortage of cash on hand.
Eldridge said in his letter that the company views the interim arrangement with Stonyfield as continuing its mission to provide a market for organic milk producers in Maine.
“We are having discussions with Stonyfield, Oakhurst, Organic Valley and other bulk customers as we seek to secure a long-term contract for each of the farmers,” he wrote.
The company has five employees in Maine, one salesperson in Massachusetts, and an office in Falmouth.
MOO Milk is closing and pulling it’s products from store shelves.