What is in this article?:
• As a result of his dairy farming and milk marketing success, Dale McClellan has been selected as the Florida winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
Born into farming
“I never really had to start farming,” says McClellan. “I was born into it. I milked my way through high school.” He was raised on Sunny Brook Dairy, a Tampa farm and milk processing facility owned by his grandparents. In fact, both his mother and his father came from dairy farming families.
When Sunny Brook encountered financial difficulties in the late 1970s, the cattle were sold, and McClellan was able to lease the farmland and start his own dairy with 500 head that had been owned by his grandparents. “I was 23 years old, my family was broke and my grandfather was in tears,” he recalls. “That gave me the determination to become successful in dairy farming and in milk processing.”
Sunny Brook’s processing facility closed in 1979. McClellan refurbished the plant with new equipment and refrigeration, and he reopened it as M & B Products in 1987. In 2003, he moved the cattle from Hillsborough County to Citrus County. The Hillsborough farm now supplies hay for the new farm.
With 140 dedicated, hard-working employees, M & B Products is a milk-processing pioneer. Some of its innovations include reducing the sugar and fat in flavored milk delivered to Florida schools before it became mandatory. He sells the fat removed from the milk to a firm that produces ice cream.
“Our milk is marketed as a ‘Fresh from Florida’ product,” he says. The facility also processes citrus and other fruit juices that he markets throughout the eastern U.S. to schools and to institutions such as prisons and hospitals. He sells the juice products under the Mr. J brand and the milk products under the Cool Cow brand.
“We market our products by being innovative in our flavors, packaging, sizes and vitamin and calcium fortification,” he adds. “We are giving school children the extra nutrition their growing bodies need.”
One of his goals is to increase the number of cows he milks to 1,500. He is exploring the possibility of using methane gas digestion to generate electricity on his dairy farm.
He wants to work with community organizations and other owners of fleet vehicles to operate delivery trucks on compressed natural gas. He also hopes to use the wastewater from his processing plant to irrigate the bermudagrass he grows in the nearby fields. He uses this bermudagrass for hay and for pasturing some of his dry cows.
When local opponents objected to his plans to start a dairy farm near Lecanto, McClellan took time to meet with them and answer their questions. This experience led him to become active in Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups. He served for several years as a director and president of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau.
McClellan has been active in a number of organizations. Some of these include Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce, Florida School Nutrition Association and the Temple Terrace Masonic Lodge.
He has advised members of Congress on agricultural issues. He is a founding member of the 301 House, a rehabilitation facility for alcoholics. He is also a supporter of youth sports teams, Ag in the Classroom, 4-H and FFA.
In Citrus County, his leadership has helped to make agriculture a part of the mainstream through his hard work in organizations such as the Agricultural Alliance, Economic Development Council and Chamber of Commerce.
He met his wife Mary when she worked at the Sunny Brook processing plant. Mary has been active in parent-teacher organizations and served as a team mom for Little League. She worked off the farm in school nutrition and retired after her first grandchild was born. They are members of Hillsborough United Methodist Church