California Dairies Inc. (CDI), Visalia, Calif., said Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross and other state and local officials joined the cooperative on Sept. 29 for a groundbreaking ceremony in Kern County, Calif., at the future site of CDI’s new ultra-high temperature and extended shelf-life milk processing facility.

“This is an exciting day and marks the launch of a transformational investment being made by our farmer-owners,” said Brad Anderson, CDI’s president and CEO, in his opening comments. “This new facility will process our Kern County-produced milk into innovative fluid milk products that have been seeing growth in demand throughout the U.S. and international markets.”

CDI, the largest dairy farmer-owned cooperative in California and the second largest in the United States, said it is building this state-of-the-art milk processing facility under the name Valley Natural Beverages. The project is being built in northern Kern County, a region with significant milk production but no local processing facilities.

This investment will not only significantly reduce the transportation distances of milk produced in Kern County, but also further demonstrate CDI’s commitment to sustainable solutions by incorporating renewable energy sources and waste conservation as key priorities in the facility and operational design, the company said.

“As farmers, we aim to be good stewards of the land to leave a lasting legacy for future generations,” said Simon Vander Woude, CDI’s chairman of the board of directors. “CDI’s member-farms are leading the way in implementing sustainable on-farm practices, and the construction of this state-of-the-art facility will carry that mission forward.”

CDI said it and its family-owned dairy farms have a long history of prioritizing on-farm sustainability. In 2011, CDI co-founded Dairy Cares, a nonprofit pursuing research and innovation in the area of sustainable dairy practices in California. More recently, CDI adopted the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment, which aims to be carbon-neutral or better by the year 2050.

The 220,000-square-foot facility will be built on 30 acres of land in northern Kern County. The facility is expected to create approximately 100 new jobs when fully operational in 2023, CDI said.