This article appears in the December 2015 issue of Dairy Herd Management magazine.
Like many reading this, I’m living on the farm where I grew up. The landscape is generally similar – a few more buildings and taller trees – but the business is vastly different.
We broke ground on a cheese plant in late 2013, and after a few hiccups started making cheese in July 2014. More hiccups and one new cheese vat later, we’ve been continuously making cheese two or three days per week since Oct. 31, 2014. Now into December, the busy holiday season has arrived. But unlike last year where we were slinging cheese curds at anyone who had tastebuds, our cave-aged Cheddar is a year old, and our washed Muenster and mini Brie wheels are available for sale.
For our daughter Lucy and second child, due in February, life will not be the same as it was for me, despite the fact we continue dairying on the same property. The number of vehicles using our driveway to sell us something is probably seven times what it was before. We just try to make sure we have a few more customers than salespersons each day.
My dad still gets to be a farmer. However, he’s added tour guide, boiler expert and adequate cheese curd packager to his résumé. Mom’s always loved to cook, but now she’s preparing vats of cheese, loaves of bread, and dinners aplenty for visitors, along with the normal farm chores she held for years.
My husband, Lucas, still holds his real job as an editor with this fine publication.
But he, too, finds nights and weekends (and some days – sorry, Dave!) to get in on the expanded action needed to track money, make sales and deliver cheese in a burgeoning farmstead cheese plant.
Our company, Redhead Creamery LLC, is both everything I dreamed and nothing like I thought. We, as dairy farmers, took for granted the 80+% of value added to our paychecks before those products reach the shelves.
Our distributors, salespeople, shelf stockers, store owners, department managers, cashiers, marketers and package manufacturers play a huge part in getting our product to the people. Their businesses are not risk-free, either.
But, we can all agree there is no greater satisfaction than someone tasting a product your dad milked, your mom cheddared, your employees packaged, and your husband delivered, and hearing them say, “Wow, this is really good.”
Our kids won’t know it any other way. Lucy, age three, has spent less time on the farm than I did by age three, but more time in a cheese plant than I did by the time I was 25.
We had the pleasure of welcoming our U.S. Senator, Amy Klobuchar, to the farm this summer. When she arrived, Lucy grabbed a business card and gift bag and delivered it to her, unprompted.
We owe thanks to many people for our plant. We could not have built it without grants, contributions through a Kickstarter campaign, and lots of muscle to help us get started. Now, we get to share the creation with our community.
We’ve made it a year, and the future still makes us nervous. But as I lay down to sleep in the house I grew up in, I know there is no better place to build a family than right on the farm… cheese plant included.
For more information on Redhead Creamery, visit www.redheadcreamery.com.