Clover sign.jpg

A Clover Farms sign stands outside the Bethany Children's Home farm in Womelsdorf, Pa., in 2018.

A New Jersey dairy processor has agreed to purchase Clover Farms Dairy in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Clover, an independent plant known for its bottled milk and Icy Tea, sent a letter to its dairy farm suppliers Jan. 18 informing them of the purchase by a subsidiary of Florence, New Jersey-based Cream-O-Land Dairy.

The two companies have executed a purchase agreement for Clover’s assets and operations, and the sale is likely to close within two months. The companies will provide more details after closing, according to a Clover Farms press release.

“The completion of the transaction will secure Clover Farms’ operations into the future as a strong regional dairy processor, which provides hundreds of jobs in eastern PA and a stable market for its independent farmer network,” the press release says.

Kevin Howard, Clover’s chief financial officer, said the press release was all the two parties had agreed to publicly disclose at this point.

Lancaster Farming also left a message with Cream-O-Land. The receptionist said the appropriate contact would not be back until Thursday.

On its website, Clover Farms describes itself as the largest privately owned dairy company in Pennsylvania. The business, founded in 1937, has 300 employees and over 170 supplier farms.

Clover delivers more than 3 million pounds of milk daily throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and New York City.

Cream-O-Land is a third-generation family business started in 1943 and run by brothers Jay and Robert Schneier. The company sells milk in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Florida and the Bahamas.

Paul Hartman, a Berks County dairy farmer who supplies Clover Farms, said he was thankful when he got the letter saying that the company had a path forward. He had been hearing rumors of a potential sale but wasn’t sure how far along the process was.

“It was kind of nice to get confirmation finally,” he said.

Sen. Judy Schwank, who represents Clover Farms' district and a number of its supplier farms, said she's been aware that the dairy's owners had been looking to sell for some time.

Her understanding is that Cream-O-Land has committed to keep the plant open and continue working with Clover's independent farms.

She's looking for Clover Farms to continue being an iconic local brand and part of the state's dairy infrastructure.

"I'm hoping this is a seamless transition," said Schwank, the top Democrat on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board has also been aware for some time that the two companies were in talks, though the agency has not been informed of the outcome of those negotiations.

“Dealers do not have to let us know anything regarding sales to another entity; however, we would be involved in a change in the license when the new entity takes over,” said Carol Hardbarger, the board secretary.

Clover Farms has not indicated that the sale would result in mass layoffs. Companies of 100 or more workers are generally required to provide the state with 60 days’ notice of large job cuts, and Clover has not filed such paperwork.

The Clover sale is one of several notable dairy plant transitions in the Mid-Atlantic so far this decade.

The parent company of Readington Farms in New Jersey announced about a year ago that its farms would get new markets as the business shifted to purchasing milk from a third party.

And Dairy Farmers of America bought 44 plants, including several in the Northeast, from Dean Foods in 2020 as that company went through bankruptcy proceedings.

Stephanie Speicher and Tom Venesky contributed reporting. This story has been updated with details from Clover Farms and Hartman.

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