Cass Clay Creamery Groundbreaking
If you are sipping a refreshing glass of milk, spreading butter onto bread, or indulging with some delicious ice cream, there’s a good chance you’re enjoying a product made by the Fargo-based Cass Clay Creamery. Most North Dakotans and Minnesotans know that Cass Clay has been “making good things better” for quite some time, but not many know about the Creamery’s courageous history.
It all began in the midst of the Great Depression. Local farmers, along with many American workers, had fallen upon hard times. The only market for dairy products was the “centralizer” dairy output in Moorhead. Since the “centralizer” had no competition, it paid farmers rock bottom rates that hardly covered the cost of keeping up a cow herd. Hardworking dairy farmers were run-down and frustrated. Then, a field man for Land O’ Lakes named Charlie Ommodt entered the scene. He told Ben Briggs, a local farmer, that area dairy farmers could start a creamery to outdo the competition. “Whether or not you join Land O’Lakes is up to you,” he said, “but at least you’ll have yourselves a creamery.” Ben Briggs was inspired by the idea, and with the help of his friend Andrew Headland he rallied the community. As support grew, they decided not to join with Land O’Lakes, believing they could be successful on their own. Even the competing “centralizer” was intimidated; they went so far as to plant a spy in the Cass Clay planning committee in a failed attempt at sabotage.
Yet in 1935, the dream became reality as the plant opened in Moorhead. At the time it boasted only seven employees and one truck, but it grew and grew. In 1941 the man behind the idea, Charles Ommodt, was hired as the general manager. And on this date in 1955, there was an exciting development in his career – the groundbreaking ceremony for the huge Fargo dairy plant that is still in service today. In a speech that day, Ommodt predicted that in the future “we can do 10 million dollars a year.” His prediction soon came true. In 1961 net sales were 11 million, and in 1981 they reached 72 million. And today, despite a national trend of decreasing dairy popularity, Cass Clay is part of the Associated Milk Producers, Inc., a dairy marketing cooperative with 3,000 member farms in six states, and sales of more than 1 billion dollars per year.
So next time you are enjoying delicious Cass Clay milk, butter, or ice cream, remember it all started with a few dairy farmers who just wanted to “make good things better.”
Dakota Datebook written by Leewana Thomas
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, Thursday Evening, June 30, 1955-“Creamery Seen as $10 Million Business Here”