When Lance Mitchell humbly requested prayers a couple years back when he wasn't exactly sure he'd ever sell another drop of milk again, he couldn't really imagine being sold out of milk twice in his first week of in-house production.
But here he is.
His family run Mitch Hill Dairy started small with their new bottling operations - only
Now, after a Wednesday of delivering to some local shops, the Mitch Hill milk is available in a few stores.
Three local places are already on board to carry Mitch Hill gallons. and others expressed interest when they begin bottling half-gallons. With the help of Oil City's Heath Market, Seneca's Stiller's Meats and Smokehouse and Abe's General Store in President, Mitch Hill I can now be purchased with out a ride out the country farm.
According to Gayle Mitchell the store will set the price over $4 a gallon but they'll be at least $4.25 in the stores. The Mitch Hill store at the farm will continue selling at $4 and continue selling raw milk there as well.
The move to sell at the stores helps distribute their local milk in a more convenient way for consumers in town. This move is showing a way a small farmer can reach their community with their product despite the high distribution of corporate farms and dairies, which many experts have pointed to as the reason so many small farms are in the decline.
So at least for now through hard work and perhaps a little luck, Mitch Hill is not only still here, they are growing and they are selling drops of milk by the gallon. Mitchell's prayers, and those from others, are paying off.
Below is the story published on the 16th.
"It's been over a decade in the making," said Gayle Mitchell. She and husband Lance have been talking about, planning, seeking a means, and revamping plans to set up a milk bottling operation. It hasn't been an easy road.
Several road blocks and stumbling blocks kept pushing back the plans. Then in early 2018, the company that had been buying their milk, suddenly cut them off. They and several farms in the area were left with no one to buy their milk.
Some multi-generation farms could weather the storm a little better than others who still had liens on their property and much of their equipment. Mitch Hill had been operating on a line of credit as the milk prices were so low they struggled to keep up.
At that time Lance Mitchell, who always seems to be wearing a smile, was worried, but not defeated. He simply only asked for people to include them in their thoughts and prayers.
""If there is one thing I can ask... if folks would say a little prayer," he said while moving cows into position for the afternoon milking.
Not too long after that humble request, another dairy picked them up allowing the Mitchell's to keep operating their farm.
"We had a pretty good 2020," Lance said. They received a $50,000 Pennsylvania Dairy Improvement Grant that propelled them into getting the funding they needed to start their bottling operation. The nearly $200,000 project started operating with their first 24 one-gallon jugs of raw milk Friday night. They sold out on Saturday after a brief Facebook message.
Friends came as far a Brookville to support the Mitchell's new endeavor.
They plan to start bottling pasteurized milk this week as soon as their labels arrive.
After that they hope to be able to produce around 400 gallons of milk a week and sell their product in some area shops.
Lance said he doesn't care to become a big operation. "I just want to have 40 cows and make a living," he said.
"It was pretty neat seeing the milk going into the bottle," Gayle said about starting the bottling process Friday night.
On Saturday their son Caine posted a Facebook message that they would have milk at their new store on the farm beginning at 10 a.m. The night before their daughter Quinn baked some cookies to give away as a thank you. They then waited to see if anyone would show up.
"We would've been happy if one person showed up," Gayle said with a laugh. But they had a steady stream of customers, many promising a return visit in the future. At the end of the day they had only one jug remaining.
However after checking her phone messages, Gayle saw that a friend asked if she would bring a gallon to work on Monday, so they did manage to sell out on their first day.
"This is nothing short of a miracle," said Gayle. "Those prayers that were sent three years ago have been answered in a remarkable way."
Learn more by following their Facebook page here.
From almost three years ago.
This social media post had gone pretty viral reaching close to a million people worldwide with thousands of comments pouring in with support and prayers for the Mitchells and others struggling with the state of dairy in decline for the small farmer.
Another farm that was included in the 2018 story, the Henry Farm in Knox has also started bottling milk for sale as well. Check out their page at www.facebook.com/HenryDairyFarms