«Previous    Next»
Farm Family Markets Their Own Milk
By processing and marketing the milk from their 200 cows, everyone in one large Ohio family is able to make their living on the farm.
  "We do it all, from the soil to the shelf," says Janis Steiner, the youngest sibling of eight children who own and operate Hartzler Family Dairy. Inspired and encouraged by their parents, Harold and Patricia Hartzler, who began farming without chemicals in 1964, all the siblings returned to the farm 11 years ago to turn the farm into a successful business that processes and sells milk, butter and ice cream.
  Since no new dairies had opened in 30 years in Ohio, the Hartzlers' start up was by trial and error. They worked with state inspectors and consulted with a former federal agriculture employee to meet regulations. An employee from the plant where they sold their milk helped design their processing plant.
  Steiner says her father and a couple brothers took trips to look at other processing plants and find used equipment at operations going out of business.
  The processing plant and store, The Hartzler Ice Cream Shoppe, were built on the edge of Wooster, Ohio. "We knew we had to do something unique to set us apart," Steiner says. "And we're kind of an old-fashioned family."
  They decided to go with glass bottles to enhance the value of what they market as a premium product. In addition to not using chemicals on their 1,500 acres of crops or giving their cows BGH, the Hartzlers use minimal processing practices. They use vat pasteurization, where milk is held a longer period of time at a lower temperature than ordinary pasteurization. The process preserves more of what the Hartzlers consider the good qualities in their milk.
  "We believe the least processing, the better the milk is," Steiner says. They don't homogenize their milk either, so whole milk has a healthy head of cream. Loyal customers appreciate the quality product, Steiner adds.
  Hartzler Farm sells quart bottles for $3 and half gallon bottles for $3.50 (plus $1.50 bottle deposit). Their chocolate milk, known for its rich flavor, sells for about $4/half gallon. During the holiday season, they bottle 20,000 quarts of eggnog and can't keep it on store shelves.
  The dairy also makes butter and more than 50 flavors of ice cream. With a convenient location on a busy highway more customers are discovering the family's store, Steiner says.
  High milk prices in 2007 helped the Hartzlers. Since milk was more expensive, some customers decided to spend a little more to get top quality milk.
  Creating a business has not been easy and there are struggles, Steiner says. The parents, their six sons and two daughters, and their spouses are all financially and physically invested in the business. Each brings different talents. Some take care of the cows; others work in the plant or store. One is in distribution; Hartzlers' milk can be found in 100 stores and in institutions all over Ohio. Steiner handles public relations, advertising and giving tours.
  "The biggest piece of advice I can give is to have good communication," Steiner says. Her family has board meetings, which include a general manager who is from outside the family. "Have people involved who are outside of your family circle," she adds. "They see things differently; we sometime have blinders on."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Hartzler Family Dairy, 5454 Cleveland Rd., Wooster, Ohio 44691 (ph 330 345-8190; hartzlerdairy@cs.com; www.hartzler familydairy.com).

  Click here to download page story appeared in.

  Click here to read entire issue

To read the rest of this story, download this issue below or click here to register with your account number.
Order the Issue Containing This Story
2007 - Volume #31, Issue #6