Raw milk sales drive a diversified business

Cows on pasture

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

Farmer with cows

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

Cows on pasture

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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Making a go of 100% grassfed dairy

Cows on pasture

Just two years in, Lambrights see solid progress

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Wolcottville, Indiana — Grassfed organic dairy is working well for Alvin and Miriam Lambright of JerZ Acres.

Only five years into their dairy career and just two years after they began shipping milk to a no-grain market, the Lambrights are showing solid financial results while milking a herd of 40 Jerseys fed almost entirely from 80 acres of good northeastern Indiana ground.

Alvin’s Jerseys are producing 10,000-11,000 lbs. of milk that averages 5.3% butterfat in the winter. Calves are fed whole milk for just over four months, leaving about 9,600 lbs. for shipping as JerZ Acres moves from Horizon Organic to CROPP/Organic Valley’s Grassmilk program this fall.

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Tapping a big demand for raw milk

Cows on pasture

Dutch Meadows Farm sees rapidly growing no-grain, raw milk sales business

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Paradise, Pennsylvania — It all started with Alvin and Elizabeth Stoltzfus shifting from commodity organic to raw milk sales.

Customers started asking for eggs and meat, so they started diversifying. Almost two decades later, Dutch Meadows Farm is marketing a wide range of products from their own farm and 25 others in the area through a variety of avenues including home delivery, shipping, pickup locations and a farm store.

Raw milk cheeses are offered, and Dutch Meadows sells a variety of pasteurized products including butter, ghee, cream, yogurt, kefir, sour cream and cottage cheese. Raw goat milk comes from another local farm.

Grassfed beef sales are strong, and other offerings include pastured chicken and turkey, milk-fed pastured pork, garden produce, baked goods, and fish. Almost all of the farms supplying Dutch Meadows are within 20 miles of the Stoltzfus dairy..

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Regenerative ag aims to go mainstream

Regenified logo

By Joel McNair

Organic and grassfed production practices have done great things for thousands of farmers and ranchers. Millions of consumers have benefited, too.

But looking at this from a broader perspective — and I think most organic and grassfed people do look at things this way — there’s a big problem here:

Very few acres are being farmed and ranched as organic and/or grassfed.

The things we want to achieve in terms of bettering people and the planet aren’t getting done. Indeed, by most reports the overall picture here is getting darker by the day.

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