Business Profile: JD and Cheryl DeVos, Kimball Brook Farm
In 1968, when JD DeVos was five years old, his grandfather moved the family, along with 50 cows, from down-state New York to their current location at Kimball Brook Farm in North Ferrisburgh, Vermont. In 2001 JD and his wife Cheryl took over the business, expanding the herd from 80 to over 200 cows and adding a milking parlor. In 2003, after another downward trend in conventional milk prices, JD and Cheryl decided to transition the farm to an organic dairy.
Inspired by an organic milk production meeting sponsored by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), JD and Cheryl DeVos approached the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program (VFFVP) to seek help with their plan to transition their 220-cow dairy operation into organic production. With a focus on increasing profit and transitioning to organic, VFFVP service provider Nat Bacon of NOFA-VT worked one-on-one with Cheryl and JD to develop an in-depth business plan. The DeVos farm went on to become certified as the largest organic dairy in the state at that time and their business plan projections accurately predicted business outcomes for the years following the completion of the plan. The DeVos’ also conserved their farm in 2004 with funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and the Federal Farmland Protection Program (administered by USDA-NRCS), providing additional financial stability to the operation.
Cheryl and JD returned to VFFVP in 2009, this time to plan for a value-added milk bottling facility. For the DeVos family, the ability to bring a product to the market that isn’t reliant on unpredictable commodity prices is a key reason for pursuing the creamery. After a marketing survey confirmed the demand for local, organic milk, JD and Cheryl decided to go ahead with their plan to offer Vermont customers a unique product: their own organic bottled milk. In 2010, they were awarded a VFFVP implementation grant to purchase equipment for the new enterprise: Green Mountain Organic Creamery.