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The campaign to save Faith Dairy begins

Post by News Tribune Staff on Feb. 6, 2008 at 1:18 pm with No Comments »
February 6, 2008 1:18 pm

Change often begins humbly. For Andrew Bacon and others hoping to save the Faith Dairy, it began in an almost-empty community hall.

Bacon attended Tuesday night’s meeting of the Summit-Waller Community Association to raise public awareness of efforts to revive the dairy and to ask the group’s board to write a letter supporting the possibility of keeping it open. Seven board members listened to the presentation. There were five people in the audience, Bacon included.

“It’s a good start,” he said after the board agreed to support his cause.

The board and Bacon also floated the ideas of getting local residents and businesses – especially coffee shops and espresso stands – agreeing to purchase products from Faith. It also has more of an opportunity to grow market share after Wilcox Family Farms announced Tuesday that it would end its dairy operations in Roy.

The dairy at 3509 72nd St. E. closed last year. Its future hinges on what vision the dairy and its property – 100 acres in Summit-Waller and 300 acres in Roy – survives.

Sid Mensonides, who owns just over 50 percent of the company, wants to develop the 30 acres into a subdivision that would hold 16 housing units.

"He’s moving very quickly," Bacon said. "We need more time than we think we have."

His brother John, who owns the minority stake, wants to preserve the land and reopen the dairy with a new business plan. The brothers aren’t talking directly anymore.

Upstream 21, a Portland-based private equity firm that specializes in sustainable growth, would be interested in purchasing the company and reopening the dairy. The Cascade Land Conservancy would be interested in purchasing development rights.

A reopened Faith Dairy could become a magnet for community activities, Bacon told the board.

"We’re thinking a jazz festival, 4H livestock shows, harvest festivals," he said. "An amazing number of things could be done."

But, of course, money is important. The group hoping to revive the dairy said the Mensonideses shouldn’t take a financial hit just to keep the dairy open.

"What we’re trying to make sure is that John and Sylvia and Sid all get a good return on the land that they own," Bacon said. "Market rate. As much as they would get if they would sell to the highest bigger.

"This is a capitalistic society," he continued later, "and preservation efforts will not work if they’re not economically sound."

The Summit-Waller association was the first neighborhood group Bacon visited. He has plans to speak before others.

After about 30 minutes of presentation and discussion, the board unanimously agreed to write a letter of support.

"We’re gonna help the cause," president Paul Martin said.

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