By Leela Lindner
This year marks the 80th anniversary of United Dairy Farmers, so we took a moment to look back on how it all got started.
Back in 1939, when UDF was born, milk was delivered to your house by your milkman in pint-size glass bottles. You paid for both the delivery service and the milk. Carl Lindner Sr. wanted to change that. He was going to open a store where you could go and buy your milk fresh, anytime you needed it and pay less for it.
Everyone buys milk at a local store now. At that time it was a wild idea, and even a little controversial, which made getting UDF off the ground all the more challenging. Carl Sr. rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He employed his three sons to help build out what would become their first dairy plant and store. They purchased used equipment to process the milk and hand-built the cabinetry, shelves and signs for the storefront. He then began establishing relationships with dairy farmers in Milford and Goshen, convincing them to get on board his idea and allowing him to buy wholesale unprocessed milk.
In a short time, UDF was up and running. They officially opened for business on May 8, 1940 and made a respectable sales total of $8 for the day. That’s not bad when you consider that the price of milk was only 28 cents a gallon. In comparison to delivery, it was a little less than half price. People were getting the same quality of milk and a much better deal. Word spread quickly and they began to grow.
We were a business of essentials then, much like we are today. At the beginning, we sold milk, eggs, butter, cottage cheese and buttermilk.
Carl Sr.’s three sons and daughter, Carl Jr., Robert, Richard and Dorothy had been with him throughout it all. They handled business operations, marketing, and processing. They were young kids at the start and they grew up with the business. Now older, UDF’s new success gave Carl Jr. and Richard opportunities to take on other projects that had been born out of the original business. Robert stayed on and took the lead at UDF when Carl Sr. stepped back.
As we celebrate UDF’s birthday, this year also marks Robert’s 100th birthday. He still comes to the office every day, and enjoys a chocolate malt more than a few times a week. His son Brad took over the lead at UDF some years back. His dedication inspires us and reinforces our passion for the company.
In its 80th year, UDF still carries the entrepreneurial spirit that it was built upon. The next generation of leadership is bringing its own set of values to the company that is inspiring growth in new directions. As a community, we are now facing the challenges of COVID-19. Since the beginning we’ve seen ourselves as a company that provides an essential service to the community. We will continue to do that in the days ahead.
To learn more about the United Dairy Farmers’ history, check back every month through the summer for new stories.