Hay grower Harlan Anderson is known to be involved in his community of Cokato, MN, a small town in the midst of what used to be considered dairy country. He has been involved in at least 14 local revitalization projects, including the building of several commercial buildings and a shopping center.

In fact, he owns one commercial building that he would love to sell to a growing company. So he's placed advertisements in several local newspapers asking Minnesotans to help him find a buyer. Why should they care?

“I decided I would dedicate funds that I generate from the sale of the building to an effort to bring the dairy industry back to Minnesota,” says Anderson, who grows 700 acres of alfalfa and produces several value-added products from his hay.

The Minnesota dairy industry needs shoring up, according to USDA data. In 1970, Minnesota boasted of around 46,000 dairy farms and 970,000 dairy cows. By 2002, those numbers had dropped to around 5,000 dairies and 140,000 dairy cows.

Anderson, who helped write the 1995 Farm Bill, thinks he has a plan that would reverse that trend.

“I've done enough development work, especially with my cubes and horse product and mulch, to know that to develop an idea, it takes resources. I want to make sure I go into this with sufficient resources — so they aren't an issue of whether it will work or not.”

His plan? It will focus on profitability, financing for beginning farmers, returning micronutrients from manure into Minnesota soils, and adding value to dairy products, among other things.

“It won't require any legislation or taxpayer dollars. It's purely an effort on the part of private enterprise,” he promises.

“How can I lose? If the building sells, my community gets new jobs and I get a chance to develop an idea I have had since selling my veterinary practice in 1988.”