Hastings Creamery closed its doors Friday, ending a 110-year run as a vital outlet for Minnesota and Wisconsin dairy farmers, at least for now.
The company confirmed the closure Monday without specifying a reason.
In June, the Met Council disconnected the creamery from the sewer system after it leaked thousands of gallons of raw milk and cream into the city's wastewater plant. The creamery had been trucking wastewater to St. Paul while addressing the recurring issues, all while milk prices plummeted to a multi-year low amid excess supply.
Despite new management and some positive inspections this summer, the creamery could not stay afloat.
"I really thought things were looking up, but the cash situation was really tough," said Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen. "Hopefully in the next couple of weeks we'll see if a buyer comes forward or if they're able to infuse some cash. It might be a longer-term closure of the plant."
Petersen said the department is working to secure new processors for the dairy farmers the closure has affected.
The Met Council said in a statement Monday the agency has been working with the creamery and other regulators "to find a solution that supports local milk producers while protecting the community water supply."
"The Hastings Creamery is an important asset to the region, and we are committed to partnering on any future resolutions that support the creamery and the safety of the Hastings community," the Met Council said.
Hastings Creamery opened in 1913 as a butter manufacturer at a time when Minnesota was becoming the nation's leading butter producer. The current milk plant, built in 1955, was capable of processing 150,000 pounds of milk a day.
In 2021, a group of small organic dairy farmers bought the creamery "to secure a direct way to market their milk while ensuring that their family farms can transition into the hands of the next generation," according to the company.
The creamery opened a new Dairy Store in Hastings in 2022 across the street from the longtime location of the community staple.
"Everybody loves the milk that comes out of the creamery and the shakes that come out of the store," creamery co-owner Justin Malone told Dairy Star last year. "Which is important because we really need Hastings and the surrounding communities to support us."
The creamery bought milk from several dozen farms across Minnesota and Wisconsin, which might have trouble finding new buyers given the current oversupply of milk.
"It's the hardest thing I do right now," Petersen said of the plight of the state's dairy farmers. "I've taken some tough calls."
As for the creamery, "I do think there's opportunity there," he said. "But if a new owner comes in, it's not as easy as flipping a switch."
Karen Altpeter of Prescott, Wis., said she had assumed Hastings Creamery had solved its problems since she had been buying "good milk on our weekly trips to the Dairy Store."
"We are saddened for a longtime business, the relatively new owners, the employees and more importantly all the farmers that now need to scramble to find an outlet for their milk," she said. "Tough times for all involved."