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Va. farm group buys Hagerstown plant, plans to begin milk, ice cream production this fall

August 27, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts, left, welcomes Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative Vice President Randy Inman, center, and Board President Dennis Trissel Tuesday during a ceremony at the former Unilever ice cream plant on Frederick Street.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

Valley Pride LLC, a group of 21 family farms based in the Harrisonburg, Va., area, has purchased the former Good Humor-Breyers ice-cream plant in Hagerstown and plans to begin milk and ice-cream production this fall, according to a company official.

Randy Inman, vice president of Valley Pride and Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative, declined to say how much the cooperative paid for the property.

During a ceremony Tuesday, at which Hagerstown and Washington County officials joined company officials in making the announcement about the purchase of the plant, Inman said it’s been “a long, hard road.”

The farmers have worked diligently to try to “fulfill this lifelong dream of ours to own our own processing facilities,” he said.

The company will start production with milk and approximately 10 ice-cream products under the Shenandoah Family Farms label, he said.

The ice-cream line will include up to 3-gallon containers of ice cream and novelty items like ice-cream bars, Inman said. The cooperative expects to add butter to its product line later, he said.

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Valley Pride, which purchased the property on Monday, had people working in the plant on Tuesday to clean it up and get it ready for production.

The cooperative will hire approximately 35 full-time workers from the community and surrounding area to help run the plant, Inman said.

As the cooperative’s market, product line and production increase, it will need more employees, hopefully up to 200 workers in the near future, he said.

“Well, the No. 1 thing this means for the city is job creation,” said Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts, one of several local elected officials present at the plant for the announcement.

Co-op officials will look at opportunities for other groups, such as local farmers, to use the processing facility, but, for now, it will be limited to the 21 family farms that are within a 10-mile radius of each other in Northern Virginia, Inman said.

The Harrisonburg area, which Interstate 81 passes through, is approximately 110 miles south of Hagerstown.

Valley Pride bought the property from Hagerstown 1100 Frederick LLC, which is related to New Mill Capital LLC of Los Angeles, Calif.

Hagerstown 1100 Frederick LLC paid $2 million to Unilever Manufacturing for the 1040 Frederick St. property in April, according to the deed.

Unilever closed the plant in July 2012.

City officials had been working with Unilever to find a new user for the plant, then New Mill Capital bought the plant last spring. Gysberts said.

After New Mill bought the property, someone representing the farming cooperative called and inquired about the property, he said.

Inman said the co-op had been looking at the former Sunshine’s Pride Dairy cheese plant in Winchester, Va., but when the Hagerstown plant became available, it was a better location for the co-op.

Company officials plan to begin hiring employees around the beginning of October and hope to start production in late October or early November, Inman said.

Some equipment needs to be installed and certain licensing is needed before production can begin, he said.

The company’s sales team will work to get the cooperative’s products on shelves within a 250-mile radius, from New York City to Raleigh, N.C., Inman said.

Valley Pride is pursuing two state tax-credit programs, and, as the company increases the number of its employees, it could become eligible for more incentives, he said.

People interested in applying for jobs at the plant can stop by the plant Monday through Friday, or go online to www.shenandoahfamilyfarms.com.

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