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Dairy Farm Has Its Own Micro Creamery
What began as a 5-acre farm with 2 cows almost 10 years ago has grown into a thriving 30-cow family dairy, micro-creamery and cheese production facility on a 160-acre Nebraska farm. Laura Chisholm, her husband Andy, and 4 of their 5 children operate the Chisholm Certified Naturally Grown Dairy and the Orchard Hill Creamery. Their 2 boys, Alex and Michael, feed the calves and help their dad milk. Sisters Hannah and Jamie help their mother make and package cheese and work at farmer’s markets.
  Laura Chisholm proudly says “all of our Jersey cows have names and they’re outside grazing on pastures year around. We raise alfalfa to supplement the pastures as needed. The cows are happy and content and give us plenty of creamy, healthy milk.” The farm’s ‘Cream Top Milk’ is so named because it isn’t homogenized, so the cream floats to the top. It is, however, vat pasteurized.
  The Chisholms started their venture by selling raw milk direct to customers. Laura says “we quickly learned that selling just milk wasn’t going to provide enough revenue to keep us afloat.  We added cheeses in 2011 and began selling bottled white and chocolate milk when we opened our micro creamery in 2013. Then we added yogurt and ice cream. Those products really make a difference with income. Since our creamery is fairly new, we’ve been experimenting with different types of artisan cheeses and other products as we work through finding out what sells, what’s profitable, and what our customers need and want.”
  To promote the operation, the Chisholms participate in farmer’s markets and in 2016 are running a yogurt flavor contest. Their goal is to have a new yogurt flavor every week, gauge which ones customers like best, and then settle on 6 regular flavors and 4 seasonal ones. They also have a fall festival with activities, live music and product tastings. It gives the family an opportunity to connect directly with their customers.
  Their products are in local stores and they’re listed with a few online retailers.  Several local chefs also use their products. A small store on the farm serves drive-in customers.
  Chisholm says online sales have been “a tough cookie to crack.”   One of her biggest challenges is to find time to grow sales when she and her kids spend several hours a day making the products, then attending markets to sell them. She says it’s also difficult to carve out time to work on websites, find new accounts and other venues to sell through. Despite all these challenges, Chisholm says she and her family wouldn’t want to experience farm life any other way.
    Her advice to others who might start a similar enterprise is to “dream big and be prepared to work like you want it!  Do your homework, get a strong business plan in place and stick to it.   And lastly, be sure you love the work, because dairy farms are one of the most time intensive ways to farm.”
   Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Chisholm Family Farm, 1875 D Road, Unadilla, Neb. 68454 (ph 402 440-9409; www.chisholmfamilyfarm.com).

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2016 - Volume #40, Issue #1