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Dairy Farms in Decline

Nels and Marilyn Siverson owned the Hidden Hammock Dairy Farm in southern Marion County for nearly 25 years, building up what began as their children’s 4-H project into a career operation that produced some 6,000 gallons of milk a day.

But in December, the Siversons shuttered Hidden Hammock, the last dairy farm in Marion County. They cited environmental regulations that would require them to spend up to $2 million on upgrades to wastewater systems. “We were determined to keep it going, but we couldn’t make the numbers work,” says Siverson.

Statistics show dairy is in decline all over Florida:

  • Statewide, the number of milk producers is declining at a rate of around 6% a year, according to a University of Florida report.
  • About 25% of Florida’s milk is now imported, according to the state agriculture department.

The Siversons plan to sell off most of their 440 acres. They say they will keep 100 acres or so and try their hand with a small herd of Wagyu — Japanese beef cattle — and jump on the local-grown food movement.