Vendor Profile: Family Farmstead Dairy
photos by Ben Cotter
One of our Co-op’s top priorities is to partner with socially and environmentally conscious vendors and distributors. We seek out small farmers from the region who offer responsibly made products that are beneficial to the earth and the health of our community. This road eventually led to Family Farmstead Dairy in Central New York, where a small family farm recently started a small creamery founded on the values of ecological sustainability and family wellness.
With Family Farmstead’s superb tasting A2 milk from 100% grass-fed, free-range cows, River Valley Co-op shoppers have a unique opportunity to compare and contrast their offerings to “regular” milk, which often...
- Has the mutated A1 casein protein
- Comes from corn-fed cows
- Contains artificial hormones and antibiotics
We asked Family Farmstead to share more of their story and tell us why they’re a better alternative to the status quo. Keep reading to learn how they accomplish their methods by putting the needs of local communities first!
What made you decide to turn your family farm into a creamery?
We felt that our future as a small family farm was potentially in jeopardy due to the impact of a commercialized dairy industry. My wife and I spent much time contemplating two options:
- Purchase a larger farm with more land employees and equipment
- Build our processing plant and market our milk which we believe is truly a special product
After much thought, we landed on option number two and thus far are very thankful for where we have ended up.
What are the benefits of 100% grass-fed dairy and how does that impact quality?
There are many benefits to 100% grass-fed dairy. First, cows' rumens are meant to digest grass and forage ─ not grain. By following nature’s design (100% grass-fed), the cows are healthier, happier and live much longer. If grazed properly the results can replenish and regenerate our soils and natural ecosystems which are often abused by modern, large-scale farming practices. The final result is exceptional milk that is full of nourishment. The Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios are nearly 1:1 and CLA’s are much higher in 100% grass-fed dairy.
What is A2 milk? How can a regular customer distinguish it from A1 milk?
A2 describes the beta-casein protein in the milk. Studies have shown it’s easier for many people to digest, with less undesirable side effects. There are two main beta-casein variants ─ A1 and A2.
Originally, all milk used to contain only the A2 protein. Unfortunately, a genetic mutation caused the A1 strand to develop at some point, and it’s since become the predominant variant in most dairy cows today. You can expect most milk on store shelves to contain a large amount of A1 protein unless the farmer has tested all of his cows and selected only the A2 cows for milk production. This is what we have done at Family Farmstead Dairy to ensure our milk is 100% A2.
What is your milking and bottling process?
We start by milking our cows every morning at 6 AM. The milk is then pumped to our bulk tank, where it is immediately cooled. After breakfast, we will pump the milk from the bulk tank to the pasteurizer in the processing plant next door. The milk is tested to ensure quality before we begin pasteurizing.
Our belief at Family Farmstead is that milk should be minimally processed. Therefore, we take steps to “gently” pasteurize our milk by heating it to just 145º F. Many of the other kinds of milk on store shelves are heated to much hotter temperatures, sometimes over 200º F. Using such high heat means a longer shelf life, but this comes at the expense of quality since the increased temperatures denature the milk’s proteins and other vital nutrients.
We also do not homogenize our milk. The process of homogenization forces the milk through a tiny strainer, resulting in uniform particle sizes and milk that doesn’t separate. This is unnatural and we believe it can negatively affect digestion of the milk. Savor the cream top ─ just don’t forget to shake it!
Once pasteurization is complete, we pump the milk to a machine that fills the bottles, caps them and prints the best-by date. As the bottles come off the conveyor belt, we load them into crates and wheel them to our walk-in cooler. Within a day or two, our local distributor, Hidden Camp Farm, comes to pick up the milk for delivery.
What are some challenges facing small dairy farmers today?
One of the largest challenges in our business endeavor is education. If the funds were available, we would hire someone full-time with a sole focus on consumer education. Many people don’t know the positive impacts that purchasing a local regenerative product can have. Products like ours promote:
- Numerous health benefits
- Socioeconomic prosperity for local communities
- The regeneration of our soils and ecosystems
Our milk prices may be a bit higher, but the returns are that much better for everyone. Thank you all who support our family, our farm and our local communities!