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Rockview Farms’ milk production business thrives during dairy industry changes

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Rockview Farms Overview

New laws and consumer tastes impact the milk producing business but Rockview Farms in Downey, California endures through business-to-business sales, expanding production of organic milk which accounts for 12 percent of total revenue, and home delivery that gets milk from the cow to a family’s refrigerator in 48 hours.

Rockview Farms is the last family-run farm in California that owns its own cows and distributes its own milk.

Customers include supplying In-N-Out Burger with milk shake mix, home delivery company Winder Farms, schools like UCLA and Cal State Long Beach, and Cardenas Markets along with private label sales to major retail operations.

Ownership

The DeGroot family bought Rockview out of bankruptcy in 1966 after previously supplying the company. Curt DeGroot, sales manager and grandson of original owner Peter DeGroot, told me during a visit that the “gallon jug” remains the company’s core business with 2 percent milk ready to surpass whole milk in sales.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story Dec. 11, 2012 titled “America’s Milk Business in a ‘Crisis’” pointing to the growth of vitamin water and milk alternatives, but Rockview appears vibrant.

I asked Curt how his company has remained in business along with his views on minimum wage and health care legislation, the southern California economy, and the impact on consumers.

What are some reasons your company has been able to continue operation?

When people are looking for the best value to put on the table and feed their kids, milk is a big part of that. Ours is fresh and not ultra pasteurized.

I know some people think ‘milk is milk’ but ours is fresh and I do think it has a better taste than other brands.

How will a hike in minimum wage impact your dairy operation?

Here at Rockview, we pay well in excess of minimum wage, so I don’t think minimum wage increases will be much of a factor. As far as changes in health care and trucking regulations we do everything we can to maintain a competitive business within the law.

Do you see costs going up?

I do see these things driving up costs. I’ve got a lot of distributors who only have 1 or 2 trucks and with new requirements for having modern trucks, their vehicles can become obsolete in 7 or 8 years.

It’s going to mean more consolidation in the business because the smaller guys are going to be driven out. Refrigerated transport is getting more expensive and people are going to pay for that.

In your opinion, how is the southern California economy doing?

I think it’s still sluggish. Companies are hesitant to hire for all the reasons we just mentioned [legislation] and because of the uncertainty surrounding that.

The guy working for wages is having a tough time even if Wall Street is doing well. That being said, milk is a good nutritional value that's affordable.

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Curt DeGroot said his family plans to own the company and stay in the business for years to come.

Rockview Farms employs 300 people in its Downey processing plant with 25 to 30 trucks carrying milk daily from its farms in Chino, southern Nevada, and Central California.

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