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Raw Milk Cheese Business Works For Small Family Farm
You can taste the difference in Fruitful Seasons Dairy cheese, says Marv Hoffman. The flavor starts with healthy soil and the organic practices on his family’s Alexandria, Minn., farm. The seven cheeses the Hoffmans make begin with raw milk from 100 percent grass-fed Jersey cows.
  The family is a good example of how it’s possible to create a successful business on a small farm. In the six years since they have been licensed to make cheese, Fruitful Seasons Dairy, has developed a following of local customers who come to the farm, or buy their products at farmers markets, health food stores, or online.
  Hoffman notes that they didn’t jump into the business blindly. He worked as an engineer, and he and his wife, Kathy, grew their own food organically and had one Jersey cow to milk for their own use.
  “We feel raw milk is more wholesome because you aren’t killing the enzymes, and it’s easier to digest for some people,” Hoffman says. “Feeding cows only grass is based on the natural ruminant activity of the cow so they are healthier.”
  Grass-fed milk is also high in omega-3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a cancer-fighting fat, and the cheese made from the milk has five times more CLA than from grain-fed cows.
  Kathy perfected cheese making and Marv worked with state inspectors to design the system. They follow Minnesota regulations that raw milk cheeses must age at least 60 days.
  The Hoffmans and 4 of their 6 children still at home take care of 15 to 16 Jerseys that are rotationally grazed (2 or 3 times a day) on 60 acres of pasture. The family makes cheese twice a week during the growing season and feeds the whey to their pigs and chickens.
  Cheese wedges (about 3/4 lb.) are vacuum packed and sell for $9.50 lb. Uncut wheels (about 10 lbs.) sell for $8.50 lb. Varieties include Gouda, Tomato-Basil Gouda, Caerphilly, Colby, Brick, Farmhouse Cheddar and Holmes City Spice (onion, garlic and chili pepper Gouda).
  “We focus on local marketing,” Hoffman says, “to anywhere Spee-Dee Delivery gets in a day like the Twin Cities or northern Iowa.”
  They can also send orders (with higher shipping costs) to other parts of the country, but Hoffman encourages people to buy local whenever possible.
  Many customers come to the farm store to buy cheese and raw milk, which is legal to purchase directly from the farm in Minnesota.
  For families considering a similar business, Hoffman notes that equipment is expensive and that it’s important to contact your state’s inspector at the beginning of the process to make sure all regulations are being followed.
  The Hoffmans have watched sales increase, but don’t want to get too big. Satisfied customers telling others about their products have been the best advertising and helped get their cheese into 5 area stores in addition to the farm store.
  Hoffman only works occasionally as an engineer, and says that thanks to the family’s farm operation they don’t need to join a fitness club. They don’t own a 4-wheeler, and moving cows multiple times a day is as good for the family as it is for the cows.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Fruitful Seasons Dairy, Inc., Marv and Kathy Hoffman, 7917 Co. Rd. 4W, Alexandria, Minn. 56308 (ph 320 283-5134; www.fruitfulseasonsdairy.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #3