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HERd management: Diversifying into farmstead milk bottling

Brenda Hastings Published on 11 June 2015

rowdy cow creamery logo

We recently added a farmstead creamery to our dairy to bottle milk on-farm. I’d like to share our experience starting up Rowdy Cow Creamery.

Over the last five years, I’ve blogged, had a Facebook page and website for our farm, and actively marketed our dairy as a destination for seasonal tours. These activities allow me to interact with lots of people in person and online. The opportunity to share the story of our farm has been a good experience for my family.

After people visit our farm or read about us online, they frequently ask, “Where can I buy your milk?” The desire people have to purchase fresh products directly from the farm that produced it continues to be a popular trend. People are also looking for minimally processed products.

The idea of processing a finished product on-farm has intrigued me for years. I’ve taken some cheese-making classes and read with interest stories about dairy producers who make a finished product on-farm.

The task of building a creamery, processing, packaging, distributing and marketing a finished product seemed to be overwhelming. After much research, visiting farmstead creameries and talking with our state department of agriculture, we decided to go for it.

Why bottle milk instead of make cheese or another product? There seemed to be a demand for local, whole fluid milk nobody else was meeting. We wanted to make a tasty product children and adults would like that is different from what’s currently in stores. That’s why we offer varieties like cookies and cream, root beer, mocha, orange cream and other yummy flavors.

I put together a written plan and a task list, then took the project one step at a time. First, researching the equipment that would be needed and the requirements for the creamery room. During this process, I spoke with dairy farmers who process milk on-farm and visited some of them.

All were generous in sharing their experiences, which was very helpful. I had several meetings with representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture who explained the requirements our creamery would have to meet, the inspection process and all the rules that go along with producing food.

Lad, Jack, Brenda and Garrett Hastings

We chose to remodel an office space to create the creamery. The process of completing this room, purchasing and installing equipment, acquiring supplies and getting all the details into place took longer than anticipated.

From the date I submitted our milk processors license application to the date we bottled the first batch of milk was one year. In February 2015, we bottled our first batch of milk under the Rowdy Cow Creamery label.

Our product line includes non-homogenized whole milk in white, chocolate and other flavors. It’s bottled in plastic half-gallon and pint-size containers. We market it to local stores and sell it on-farm seasonally during the months we’re open to visitors. Making a good product is very important but only one of many steps in the process.

Next is getting people to try it and stores to sell it. I visited several local stores, small and large, taking samples of our milk. We’re still in the early stages but are happy with the progress we’re making and the positive feedback we receive about our product.

It’s satisfying to see people drinking and enjoying the milk produced on our farm. It’s especially great to see children choosing to drink our flavored milk over other beverages.

So why add another business venture to the already busy schedule of a dairy family? Our hope is diversifying our business by offering seasonal tours and selling milk will help us sustain our farm long term and offer opportunities for our staff and future generations.

When giving tours and selling milk, I do my best to promote all dairy products in support of dairy farmers. I make a conscious effort not to disparage other dairy products in an effort to promote the milk from our farm.

I think putting other dairy products down is a practice that hurts all dairy. I want people to feel good about drinking our milk and all milk. I don’t want to scare people into choosing our product. I want them to buy dairy.

During June Dairy Month, our farm will host a Cow Tales Adventures event for families with children 5 and under, a Milk from Cow to Bottle Tour and Tasting event for all ages, and several scheduled tour groups. We’ll also decorate the window of our county tourism office, Destination Geauga, and set up a display at the local U.S. Bank in celebration of dairy.

Adding these ventures to our farm takes a lot of work. I love showing our farm to others and answering their questions. I also enjoy bottling, delivering and marketing our milk. I realize this isn’t for everyone but feel it’s a good fit for our farm and family.

For information about Rowdy Cow Creamery and Hastings Dairy, go to the website . PD

Brenda Hastings and her husband, Lad, operate Hastings Dairy, a family dairy farm located in northeast Ohio. She blogs here .

PHOTO
Lad, Jack, Brenda and Garrett Hastings, February 2015. Photo courtesy of Brenda Hastings.

Brenda Hastings
  • Brenda Hastings

  • Hastings Dairy
  • Burton, Ohio

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