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Foremost Farms celebrates 100 years in Preston

Fri, Jun 4th, 2010
Posted in Agriculture

Pictured is Foremost Farms, located in Preston, Minnesota. Photo by Paula Skaggs

Foremost Farms USA claims on their website to "provide dairy producers a financially strong business that efficiently assembles, processes and markets milk and related dairy products, providing superior value to our customers." While this is a strong promise, farmers in Preston and the surrounding southeastern Minnesota area have been doing that exact same thing for a century, with the Preston-located dairy cooperative now known as Foremost Farms.

In 1910, 57 area farmers got together to form the Preston Co-op Creamery, where the dairy producers bottled milk and made butter. The small Co-op would go on to become part of Foremost Farms, one of the largest dairy cooperatives in the nation. This year marks the 100-year anniversary of those farmers' first step into the dairy co-op business.

In 1970, the Preston Co-op Creamery merged with a Waucon, Iowa, creamery to become Meadowland Dairy Association.

"That allowed more market access and flexibility," explained John Ebner, plant manager of Foremost Farms in Preston. "It also allowed more patrons as it got a little larger."

In 1979, Meadowland Dairy merged with Wisconsin Dairies Cooperative and, in 1995, they formed with Guernsey Dairy Cooperative of Milwaukee to form the widely-known Foremost Farms today.

One of the many changes between the Preston Co-op Creamery in 1910 and as it is today is what they produce. While the Preston plant started out producing cheese and milk, it now focuses on dry blends.

"The majority of the patron milk here in Fillmore County is now going to cheese plants in Wisconsin," Ebner explained. "What's occurring is when they make the cheese (in Wisconsin), they have bi-products from the process itself and that's what we process here at this plant. We bring back a whey-protein concentrate that's called 'WPC' and we dry that."

The Foremost Farms plant in Preston also focused on dry products in the late 1960's throughout the early 80's when they produced dry whole milk powder for the M&M Mars Corporation. They would then ship the product to Chicago where the company would use the Preston product in their chocolate.

"As the dairy business evolved and that market went away, we transitioned more into drying the cheese bi-products," Ebner said.

Dave Scheevel, of Preston, is the chairman of the board of directors for Foremost Farm. He was elected to the board in 1997 and became chairman in 2008. His job includes seeing that every director's opinion is heard at the meetings, as well as attending three meetings per year for the National Milk Producers Association.

Scheevel noted that while there are getting to be fewer dairy producers in Fillmore County (with more farmers either focusing on crop farming or leaving the farming business all together), Foremost is still a great presence in the town and in the county as a whole.

"(Foremost Farms) provides a competitive market for dairy farmers in the area and for the county as a whole," Scheevel said.

"It's been a very steady, very dependable and reliable market for the dairy farmers and a good employer in the community for all these years," Ebner added.

There are currently 28 people employed at the two Foremost Farms manufacturing plants located in Preston.

"A lot of people know very little about it," Ebner said. "We sit right in the middle of town and people don't know what we do or how many people there are...they see the building all the time, but they just don't realize what it is we are."

Foremost Farms in Fillmore County continues a strong legacy of dedication and service to southeastern Minnesota and the dairy producers that are being celebrated in June as part of National Dairy Week.


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11:00:19, Nov 29th 2016

valeriejbf says:
I looking thro some old papers and found a certificate for 1 share of common stock of meadowland dairy assn. preston ,mn. issued to my husband Lyle Borseth dated March 1,1971 - Lyle died in 1995 - I'm wondering if this share bought for $1.00 would be worth anything today. my e-mail is borseth@mabeltel.coop or phone 563-737-2799 thanks, valerie borseth french


7:24:13, Nov 30th 2016

kingslandGrad95 says:
Valerie, if the issuer of stock is still in business, then Yes, there is value. If not, then No.