A business built on ‘doing the right thing’

Alexandres want to provide what customers desire

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Crescent City, California — Organic, grassfed, A2, regenerative — all of these methods and terms are important to thousands of alternative dairy marketing efforts across the U.S. and beyond.

And the Alexandre family in far northwestern California have been near the forefront with all of them.

Blake Alexandre and his wife, Stephanie, gained organic certification in 2001. About 10 years later, Alexandre Family Farm was the first to supply CROPP/Organic Valley’s Grassmilk program.

Some 15 years ago they started breeding to A2 bulls, and today most of their milk is A2/A2. More recently, Alexandre Family Farms was the first dairy to earn Regenerative Organic Certified designation under “beyond organic” guidelines developed by the Rodale Institute.

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The Farmers’ Creamery aims to develop sales

By Joel McNair

Mio, Michigan — No one ever said that small-scale dairy processing and marketing offers an easy way to make a living.

That’s certainly been the case for the folks at The Farmers’ Creamery who purchased a recently closed dairy processing enterprise in 2019, moved it to a newly built facility, and opened for business just as the Covid-19 pandemic was getting underway in early 2020.

Owned and operated by members of the local Amish community, The Farmers’ Creamery is viewed both as a business opportunity and a means of keeping small-scale dairy viable at the northern edge of Lower Michigan’s farming country.

More than two years after last visiting with Graze for an article that appeared in the April 2021 edition, the creamery’s business manager, Edward Yoder, can point to progress in developing new products and distributing them throughout most of Michigan and a few neighboring areas.

Customer feedback has generally been very good, and Edward says a number of changes that will take effect in the coming months offer promise for the future.

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Coordinating beef grazing and marketing

Farmers United says grassfed market is there for the taking

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Statesville, North Carolina — Sam Dobson saw a need to link grassfed beef graziers with wholesale markets looking for volume and consistency.

That’s why he founded Farmers United Cattle Company, LLC two years ago. Dobson has been building the business around filling that need, and says it is producing fast growth and interest from both graziers and buyers within its main operating area of the southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.

Farmers United mainly works in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio, with some production in Pennsylvania and New York as well.

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Raw milk sales drive a diversified business

Borntragers say raw milk, OAD and grassfed are keys to their growing direct sales enterprise

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Hutchinson, Kansas — Half a dozen years ago, Loyd and Arlene Borntrager saw the handwriting on the wall for their conventional milk market.

With no organic or grassfed routes available in southcentral Kansas, it looked like growing their existing raw milk market and pivoting to focus on direct marketing offered the best shot at keeping the dairy profitable and viable.

With hard work and strong marketing efforts, that goal has become a reality. Today Loyd, Arlene and their five children milk 40 grassfed cows once a day on 300 acres, with a diverse set of other farm-raised products filling out the operation.

Raw milk is the cornerstone of the business and usually the reason people seek out the farm. Customers will often add other products out of convenience while they’re getting milk.

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Growing a diversified farming business

Sugar Maple Jerseys building its brand in populated area

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Stockton, New Jersey — Heidi Denbigh started Sugar Maple Jerseys in 2013 as a first-generation farmer with about a decade of experience working on dairy farms. Not sure where it would lead, she just wanted to build a life where she could be home with her two daughters.

A decade later, there’s a herd of purebred grass-based Jerseys, a farm store for dairy and meat products, a strong group of direct-market customers, and new ventures in the works.

Her husband Rick helps with the forage side of the livestock and has his own business raising hay, straw and a bit of grain in addition to his full-time job in construction.

Located in west-central New Jersey, the farm is a few miles from the Pennsylvania border in the sixth richest county in the U.S., so there are plenty of customers and money for direct-market products.

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Grassfed aiding dairy quality of life

For Bontragers, the money is the same, but lifestyle is better

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Shipshewana, Indiana — The simplicity of grassfed organic dairy is one of the biggest reasons Chris and Nora Bontrager and their family aren’t planning to go back to their regular organic days.

Three years into grassfed, Chris, 32, says income is about the same with grassfed organic as it was with conventional organic, as grassfed’s higher milk price makes up for its lower milk production.

He sees the big advantage with grassfed as being the time, equipment and input savings from not growing and feeding ear corn and corn silage. Not buying a protein grain supplement and fertility for the corn also helps. He appreciates spending more time with his family and working in the garden or around the house. Or fishing.

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