Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 17, 2000

DFA sees staff cutbacks

By Jane Otto

Last week, 25 employees of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) received layoff notices, said Lisa Hensel, DFA plant manager.

"We're trying to hang on to people, but unfortunately, formulated sales have been slow, at best," she said.

The plant was upgraded to produce formulated products such as cheese powders.

Presently, the plant is only drying whey and there is too much staff for that operation, said Hensel.

In speaking at a later time with an employee who was laid off after more than 29 years, she said "Lisa said what she had to say, but told us not to feel that it's our fault."

Then a tearful Hensel left the room, she added.

Down to only 19 employees, Hensel said she is very concerned about the plant's future, but she hasn't heard that it will be closing.

"It's very sad for us," she said. "The people here are so wonderful and very professional in what they do. Unfortunately, sales are slow."

When asked if she knew a reason for slow sales, she replied, "If I only knew."

With the present sales levels, it is difficult to keep all four drying plants fully staffed, she said. Sales and marketing are handled at another site, she added.

Along with Winsted, DFA has drying plants in Eldorado Springs, Colo.; Bruce, Wis.; and Zumbrota, Minn.

The Winsted plant's origin goes back to 1929 when three Winsted locals, Len Hermann, Dave Laurance and Marcel Ochu purchased the Hutchinson Produce plant and established Pure Milk Products Company. By 1946, the sic key figures were Leo Hertel, Herman Peschken, Harry More, Hermann, Laurance and Ochu.

Pure Milk incorporated in 1945 and steadily grew. A lactose plant was built in 1966 followed by a new cheese plant and equipment in 1967.

Pure Milk was sold to Mid-America Dairymen, Inc., a national cooperative, May 1, 1970. Mid-Am consolidated and became Dairy Farmers of America Jan. 1, 1998.


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