Olivia Pearson & Corey Lutz
4399 Ritchie Rd
Lincolnton, NC 28092
How did you hear about Slow Money NC?: Our Agribusiness Extension Agent, Brittany Whitmire, sent us the information about Slow Money NC.
Tell us your story. Who are you? What is your business idea? Tell us your plan. Feel free to get into the details.: Piedmont Jerseys is a family-owned intensive rotational grazing dairy located in Lincolnton, NC. The dairy is owned and operated by Corey and Bridgette Lutz. Originally, Corey Lutz’s great-great grandfather, John Lutz, had some of the first registered Jerseys in North Carolina. It was here that the Lutz’s started their journey with the Jersey breed. Corey’s father, Charles Lutz, had registered Jerseys as well in Catawba County. It was here that Corey’s passion for both the dairy industry and Jerseys was instilled. Being the fourth generation on that farm, Corey milked cows at his parents’ home farm until he and Bridgette moved the dairy to Lincoln County in 1997 and moved to intensive rotational grazing. Initially everyone faulted Corey’s decision to move from a conventional dairy to an intensive rotational grazing operation. However, for the herd size that Corey wanted to maintain, it did not pencil out very well in a confinement system. Not only did this grazing system give the farm the advantage of cheaper feed cost, but also a lasting impact with the Jersey qualities and ultimately better cow longevity. The fifth generation is presently active on the farm and are actively planning to open and operate an on-farm value-added creamery called Riverbend Creamery. They plan to offer fluid milk, ice cream and farm tours to consumers. Through proper planning and preparation, the family has ultimately created a strong business plan to ensure a successful business venture that will carry on for generations to come. The family plans to market the milk as grass-fed, All-Jersey and as A2A2 (milk that is easier to digest for consumers with lactose-intolerance). As a family, we have been preparing and planning Riverbend Creamery for over five years. We have been awarded a USDA Planning Grant that allowed us to develop a solid business plan, conduct a feasibility study and market analysis in the Charlotte, Huntersville, Mooresville, Hickory and expanded areas. Furthermore, we were recently awarded a USDA Working Capital grant of 240,000 for the creamery. In addition, the family has a strong transition plan in place to secure a way to transfer not only assets, but also tradition onto the next farming family generation.
Please briefly describe your commitment to sustainable food systems in North Carolina.: The farm is situated in a horseshoe bend and surrounded three-fourths of the way by the South Fork River that is fed from the Catawba River. A Farm Conservation Plan was created and updated with the aid of the North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation. The farm is a no-till farm and engages in other management practices as well. It is entered into both a Voluntary Ag District and an Enhanced Voluntary Ag District. Recently, the decision was made to put the farm into a Conservation Easement. While this was not an easy decision due to the negotiations and ramifications for an active farm to enter into such an agreement, the Lutz family believed it to be in their best interest for securing farming opportunities for future generations. In addition to the land, cows are housed outside on grass when not up in the milking barn (i.e., no freestall barns). Cows are brought up twice a day for milking and once they are returned to pasture, the lot is scraped into a waste holding pond. The waste from this pond is applied to fertilize the land by means of irrigation through a hard hose reel, or hauled by tanker to fields that are not accessible by irrigation. In general, manure is spread in the pastures by the cows. As a family, we have a strong commitment to sustainable agriculture as we have taken extreme measures to protect our land for generations to come and to incorporate a sustainable system for cow health and longevity.
What will your sales be? What do you anticipate your profits/your margins will look like? How will you make the money to pay this loan back?: We have a full set of pro forma financials for the first three years in business that we have worked with a dairy consultant out of Wisconsin on this. These pro forma financials are comparable to other creamery operations in Wisconsin and in Eastern North Carolina.
Profit/Margin At A Glance –
– Revenue: 338,875
– Gross Margin: 224,728
– Revenue: 760,402
– Gross Margin: 338,341
– Revenue: 1,545,937
– Gross Margin: 935,003
Our primary sale products will be fluid milk (whole, low fat, skim, chocolate milk, butterfat, heavy cream and half&half); artisan ice cream and on farm tours.
Have you borrowed money before? How much did you borrow? From where? How long was the term? Is there a balance still due on that loan?: 1. Late 1997 loan for 500,000 for start up – paid off 2018. (20 year term with interest only the first year). Balance paid in full.
2. In 2014, loan for 350,000 for land acquisition – paid down to 211,000 to date (15 year term)
3. In 2018, loan for 70,000 for processing equipment for the creamery – paid down to 63,000 (10 year loan)
4. In 2017, revolving operating line loan for maximum amount of $100,000 and to be paid off yearly. Currently has $93,000 used and is due in July 2019.
While there are balances on our loans, these were essential loans and we are making minimum payments every month and additional payments when possible.
Do you have people who would vouch for your credit worthiness? Who are they?: Our primary lenders are Carolina Farm Credit. They have been our lenders since the beginning. Over the years we have paid off our initial loan and taken out other loans along the way to acquire additional land. Our Loan Officer is Ben Cabaniss from the Lincolnton Branch. Outside of primary loans, Brittany Whitmire as our extension agent is also a reference. We can provide a list of business and character references if needed.
Tell us about your business background. Have you been in business before?: Corey and Bridgette both grew up on family dairy farms. They both worked for their parents up until 1997 when they started Piedmont Jerseys. They have always owned and operated the dairy as it is their primary jobs and income.
Are there other lenders involved in your project or business?: Ideally, we would like to receive full funding through Slow Money NC. However, given that this is a large loan; we would be grateful for any amount that we could possibly finance through Slow Money NC. If we needed to have another lender involved, we would use Carolina Farm Credit or First Federal. Both institutions are aware of our project and have our financials and are reviewing our loan application.
What is your timeline for this project? Would you like it to start in a month? 6 months? A year?: We have been working on this business venture for over five years. We have developed a solid business plan that was created with outside aide of a financial consultant. Along with our financial consultant, we have consulted with successful creameries in North Carolina and other states. At this time, we are looking to secure full or partial financing through Slow Money NC. We plan to start building immediately upon release of funds. Ideally, we would like to break ground by early spring and have equipment installed by early fall. Our builder is lined up to begin construction and anticipates a 3-5 month build time and the equipment installation is anticipated to be 1-2 months long. We have a full business plan with pro forma financials. We have a full set of architectural building drawings. We are ready to go!
Is there anything else we forgot to ask you?: Family Background/Accomplishments/Community Involvement –
Awards/Honors/Accomplishments: 1993, American Jersey Cattle Association Young Jersey Breeder Award; 2000 Lincoln County Soil and Water Conservation Farm Family of the Year; 2001 North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Farm Family of the Year; 2008 Farm Host for American Jersey Cattle Association Annual Meeting; 2008 and 2009, Top 10 in Nation for milk and fat for herd size in Jersey breed; 2009 Don Wessen Quality Milk Producer Award; 2011 North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge Host Farm; 2013 Marvin E. Senger Distinguished Producer Award. 2017 World Dairy Expo Virtual Farm Tour Recipient.
Community Involvement –
1997-Current: School Group Tours of all ages, Grazing Conference Tours, Extension Agent Trainings, Host 4-H Dairy Judging, Host Collegiate Dairy Judging, Host Dairy Challenge Trainings, Host Collegiate Dairy Farm Tours, North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine Tour/Study and more.
Individual Involvement –
Corey: North Carolina State University Agriculture Institute Graduate; Director, American Jersey Cattle Association (2012-current), past chair of the AJCA Type Committee, general chairman, All American Jersey Show & Sale; NC Dairy Advantage Board of Directors (2011- current); NC Farm Bureau Dairy Advisory Board (2008-current); NC Farm Bureau LEAD Program (2009-2010); Southern States Board of Directors (2008-2012, 2016-current); Council member, Daniels Lutheran Church
Bridgette: NC Dairy Youth Foundation Board (2009-current, president, 2012-14); Southeast United Dairy Association activities (2001-current); chair, Junior Activities & Show committee, All American Jersey Show & Sale; Council member, Daniels Lutheran Church (2013-16)
James: Bachelors of Animal Science & Bachelors of Agribusiness – North Carolina State University (2012); Board of Directors, NC Dairy Advantage (current); NC Dairy Youth Foundation (2015-current); Daniels Lutheran Church, Council member (2015-current, President)
Mandy: Bachelors of Child Development – Appalachian State University(2014) VSB and Sunday School teacher, Daniels Lutheran Church
Olivia: Accelerated Masters of Animal Science (2016) & Bachelors of Animal Science (2015) – North Carolina State University; National Jersey Youth Achievement Contest winner, 2015; Stout Experience Award winner, 2014 (internship with Jersey Marketing Service); Ambassador, NCSU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
(2014); NCSU Dairy Challenge Team (2014); International Dean’s List (2013-15); N.C American Farm Bureau YF & R Top 4 Discussion Meet Finalist (2017)