Farm Progress

30 years of work pays off as Kansas dairy processing plant opens

The plant will process milk from 21 dairies into 550,000 pounds of whole milk powder every day

Walt Davis 1, Editor

November 20, 2017

4 Min Read
NEW PLANT: The new DFA milk ingredients processing plant is now officially in production. A grand opening for the plant was held Nov. 9.

Decades of work and planning brought a dream to reality in Garden City as Dairy Farmers of America opened a new dairy ingredients processing plant.

DFA Garden City is a partnership between DFA and 12 of its member farms in Southwest Kansas. It will process about 4 million pounds of milk daily into whole, skim and nonfat dairy milk powder and cream.

Construction on the plant began in October of 2015, and the plant took in its first load of milk in late September of 2017.


DREAM COME TRUE: Longtime Southwest Kansas business leader, Steve Irsik, right, was one of the earliest supporters of the dairy industry in the region and one of the first to invest in the industry, opening Royal Dairy. He is chatting here with Garden City official Matt Allen during the grand opening of the plant.

The plant completed a 36-hour run at 3 a.m. on the day of the grand opening, Nov. 9, which program manager Alan McEntee calls a “milestone” in the six-week effort to get the plant into full operation.

He has been in Garden City during the entire two-year construction phase to oversee the program. He jokes that he and his wife increased the diversity of Garden City by being “100% Irish” — a reference to the city’s reputation as an American melting pot.

A full operation, the 270,000-square-foot facility will process the milk from 21 dairies in southwest Kansas into 55,000 pounds of whole milk powder — about 17 semi loads a day.

Gov. Sam Brownback gave an emotional thank-you to the dairy producers of southwest Kansas and to the farmer-investors who made construction of the plant possible.

“It’s been almost 30 years since the first meeting we had talking about the prospects of getting dairy operations to move to Kansas,” he says. “I remember one of those people saying if we could get one dairy to move here from California or New Mexico, we could get 20. And if we could get 20, we could have a processing plant. It’s been a long time coming, but today, that has happened.”


BROWNBACK SPEAKS: Gov. Sam Brownback addressed the crowd on hand to celebrate the grand opening of the DFA processing plant in Garden City.

Kansas dairy farmer and DFA board member, Dan Senestraro, says he is proud that his investment in the Garden City plant connects southwest Kansas farmers to the world because the milk powder from the plant can be easily exported.

DFA chairman of the board Randy Mooney said he is proud of the Garden City plant and of the new DFA corporate offices in Kanas City, Kan.

“It makes me feel good in my heart to know that we are providing milk to nourish the world,” Mooney says. “Dairying is not easy. It is a 24-hour, 7-days a week, 365 days a year job. But it produces the most nutritious product known to man. This is a special day that marks a special new, global component for DFA.”

Milk ingredients produced at the plant will be fully traceable, he says. “We will know every cow from every farm that the milk processed here comes from. We will even be able to trace the feed that those cows eat.”


THE PRODUCT: The new DFA processing plant in Garden City will process about 4 million pounds of milk daily, the output of 80,000 cows on 21 regional dairies. It will be made into 550,000 pounds of bagged whole milk powder, about 17 semi loads daily.

The plant is also state-of-the-art for sustainability, as it will be a water-neutral facility with all the water utilized at the plant recycled, as well as the water produced by the drying process.

“We will be using the water from processing for cleaning at the plant and then it will be recycled back into the community to be used to irrigate park land,” says Rick Smith, president and CEO for DFA. “Not a single drop of water will be wasted in this operation,”

Smith was preparing to leave for the Global Dairy Platform meeting in Denmark just days after the Garden City plant opening. He says he was proud to know that ending malnutrition is one of the 17 goals established by the United Nations, and that southwest Kansas and DFA will be making a contribution to that goal.

The Garden City plant creates at least 66 full-time jobs at the facility and is expected to also increase employment opportunities in the community, on member farms and in the industries that support agriculture in the region.

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