Oakfield Corners Cheese wins the inaugural Northeast Dairy Innovation Competition!

In the spotlight of the Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition’s debut, Oakfield Corners stands as a triumphant exemplar, among the three pioneering dairy innovators, which also include lu.lu Ice Cream and Terra Firma Farm. The resonating success of this event unfolded on August 8th at Stocking Hall, a day marking the ascent of dairy ingenuity.

Bolstered by a remarkable $1 million grant bestowed by the Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center (NE-DBIC) and steered by Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement (CREA) and the Northeast Dairy Foods Research Center, this competition has ushered a new era for visionary creators. Their mission? Crafting dairy marvels, enriched by the bounties of the Northeast’s own production.

A symphony of innovation orchestrated by Oakfield Corners Cheese, where the notes of Mexican-style cheese harmoniously resonate, resonating as a response to the call of the market and catering to the vibrant Hispanic community—the nation’s second-largest demographic. Terra Firma Farm’s ingeniously premixed ice cream base, dubbed “Your Turn to Churn,” empowers consumers to sculpt their frozen creations in mere minutes, while lu.lu Ice Cream casts a spell of delight with its tantalizing gelato spun from the milk of goats.

A transformative journey awaits each of the triumphant trio—Oakfield Corners, lu.lu Ice Cream, and Terra Firma Farm—as they are each granted a treasure trove of $55,000 to forge ahead in refining their dairy treasures, escorting them to eager markets. Moreover, an embrace of perpetual mentorship and an esteemed presence at the Dairy Innovation Showcase during the forthcoming 2023 Grow-NY Summit, set for November 14-15 in the heart of Binghamton, New York.

The competition unfolded like a tapestry, casting a wide net that gathered over 50 applications from every corner of the United States. Within this maiden year, the entrants ranged from artisanal and organic farms, each whispering promises of dairy marvels. A select assembly of ten finalists, meticulously chosen by a coterie of dairy luminaries, were awarded $20,000 to finance their journey through the competition’s labyrinthine challenges. Guided by Cornell’s sagacious food processing and business connoisseurs, they navigated early-stage incubation and embarked on a transformative process of honing their creations. The university’s top-tier food processing facilities, industry gurus, and tutelage in product prototyping became their compass on this quest.

Heralding the heroes of innovation, Laura Ginsburg, the director of NE-DBIC, jubilantly declares, “Salutations to our dairy visionaries! This inaugural Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition radiated triumph, showcasing the fertile ground where entrepreneurial spirit intertwines with dairy craftsmanship. The result: an array of groundbreaking ideas and products that build upon the region’s profound dairy heritage.”

The esteemed panel of judges, comprising John Chrisman, the esteemed CEO of the American Dairy Association North East; Sue Miller, lauded cheesemaker and co-founder of Birchrun Hills Farm; and Anson Tebbetts, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, drew their verdict from a rich tapestry of criteria:

The very essence and execution of the dairy concept,
The transformative quality of dairy innovation or refinement,
The viability of scaling and commercialization alongside a robust business model,
A masterful employment of dairy’s raw elements, and
The cherished consumer value.
Jenn Smith, the maestro directing CREA’s food and ag startup programs, celebrates, “Today, the Dairy Innovation Competition unravelled the tapestry of dairy innovators who wield their entrepreneurial prowess to sculpt value-added gems that mirror modern consumers’ cravings. Simultaneously, they amplify the bounty of dairy ingredients born from the Northeast’s embrace. Kudos to this year’s remarkable cohort, for they collectively fortify our rural economy and elevate the resilience of our regional food ecosystem.”

From May’s awakening until early August’s dusk, the finalists reveled in a cocoon of industry guidance and entrepreneurship tutelage. The crescendo of this journey was a pitch-perfect performance, perfectly orchestrated, a seamless fusion of support for pitch development, technical acumen, and the navigation of industry networks. The North Dairy Foods Research Center (NDFRC) stood steadfast as a guiding beacon, weaving the fabric of this competition, handpicking industry mentors, and fashioning an impeccable framework for success.

Sam Alcaine, the visionary leading NDFRC and a distinguished food science professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, exults, “A resounding crescendo marks the progress etched by the participants of the Dairy Innovation Competition. This competition serves as a catalyst, birthing new product horizons and business prospects for our region’s diligent dairy farmers, further cementing the Northeast’s pinnacle as a beacon in the dairy domain.”

Source: Cornell Cornicle