LaBELLE, Mo. -- Sharpe Holdings is cutting its last ties with the milk and cheese industries.
The company, which manages sprawling farming and ministerial operations in Northeast Missouri launched by the late Charles Sharpe Jr., announced in May it was selling the Heartland Dairy operation to a Wisconsin company.
On Friday, Sharpe Holdings announced it was selling the Heartland Creamery to LaClare Family Creamery of Malone, Wis. The deal, which includes all the equipment and inventory from a cheese manufacturing facility near Newark, should be finalized in the next few weeks. Terms were not disclosed.
"We're getting out of the milk business and out of the cheese business, and we're largely focusing more on our crop operations and on the service industries that we have on the Heartland campus," said Dave Melton, vice president of Sharpe Holdings.
The sale of Heartland Dairy in May to Milk Source LLC of Kaukauna, Wis., included the sale of 5,200 dairy cows and equipment along with the leasing of a 458-acre facility that now goes by the name of LaBelle Dairy. Once the dairy operation was sold, Melton said, "it kind of made the creamery operation somewhat superfluous."
Melton said Sharpe Holdings has been drawing down the cheese operation over the last couple of years. The last few employees at the plant will be "redeployed" within the company.
Heartland Creamery today is much smaller than in 2005, when it started producing milk products and various cow and goat cheeses for distribution throughout the Tri-State region.
In the last couple of years, Melton said, Heartland Creamery has been producing only cheeses made from goat milk.
"Coupling Heartland's processing with our highly regarded goat milk supply will allow us to expand our current product lines," said Katie Fuhrmann, LaClare's cheesemaker.
LaClare officials said in a news release Friday that LaClare and Heartland have both been on the "ground floor of the growing goat cheese market." In 2015, both earned recognition at the U.S. Champion Cheese Contest. Heartland won a silver medal in the goat cheddar class, and LaClare earned the runner-up best of show title for its "American Originals" recipe.
Sharpe died at age 89 on Feb. 1, leaving behind the Sharpe Land and Cattle business that he founded years ago, along with the Heartland Community operations and 18,000 acres of land in Lewis, Knox and Shelby counties used for crops and beef cattle -- all now managed by Sharpe Holdings.
Sharpe Holdings will now focus more on the remaining operations that Sharpe started, including the Heartland Community. Heartland encompasses children's homes, men's and women's recovery programs, Heartland Community Church, CNS International Ministries Inc., Heartland Christian Academy and Heartland Christian College.