NEW WATERFORD, Ohio — A Columbiana County farm is taking an old idea and putting a modern spin on it.
Bakers Golden Dairy on Carter Road in New Waterford is selling whole milk straight to the consumer from cows milked on their farm.
Kevin Baker said he had the idea years ago, but it never went anywhere.
“We wanted to produce milk like it used to be,” said Kevin.
He and his wife, Deb and their three sons, Kurt, Keith, and Kaleb, were involved in the dairy farm. And then Kasey, the only daughter and third in the family, decided she wanted to stay in the dairy business, too.
Kasey attended the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster and majored in dairy science. While at ATI, one of her projects was to create a dairy business. So she developed a business plan for a farm that would produce its milk, pasteurize it, bottle it, and then sell it straight to the consumer.
After she graduated and came back to the farm, her dad got more interested in the idea and soon it was moving full force.
“Everyone says adding more cows to the herd is the way to go. I just don’t think so, I think we have to think outside of the box,” said Kevin Baker.
He said his idea is not to double the size of the herd, but to diversify the farm.
The family is milking 100 Holsteins, and are producing between 600-700 gallons of milk a day. In addition, they are farming more than 500 acres.
Right now, only 10 percent of their herd’s milk is being bottled on the farm, the rest is still being sent to a processor. The family is bottling more than 70 gallons a day when they are processing milk.
The family has been bottling for only about three weeks since the Ohio Department of Agriculture cleared them, but already the number of customers is growing.
The day the Farm and Dairy visited, there were customers in line waiting for the milk to be bottled. There had been a run on the milk the day before and the dairy ran out.
The project began in May 2010 with construction of the store front and processing room.
When the cows are milk, the milk goes into a portable bulk tank, which is then moved to the processing building. The milk is unloaded into the heat exchanger and cooler, and then moved into the pasteurizer.
The pasteurizer heats the milk to 161.5 degrees to kill bacteria and it is then pushed back into the heat exchanger. By shortening the amount of time it takes to heat the milk to the necessary temperature, it lengthens the shelf life of the milk, Baker said.
While the process is taking place, a monitor on the wall behind the equipment is taking recordings of everything. It not only records the temperatures, it keeps track of the air space in the pasteurizer and continuously records what is happening in the processing equipment. Only the Ohio Department of Agriculture has a key that can unlock the machine.
At the end of the day, the paper recording is removed by the Bakers and some additional information is added to the graph, including how many gallons were produced and whether it was chocolate, strawberry or white milk.
In addition, the ODA is on site throughout the week at different times keeping tabs on what is happening in the processing center.
Now, the Baker’s Golden Dairy is going to work on getting federal approval so that they can begin delivering and selling their milk in Pennsylvania.
Both Deb and Kasey are certified to pull milk from the tank for testing. In addition, Deb and Kevin are trained to test the milk for sale. They have purchased a tester for antibiotics and strict books are kept to ensure the best milk for customers.
The dairy has to test milk from their lot and from a supplier, which is the control group, in order to test for antibiotics. The receipts from the tester are required and the results have to be logged in a three-ring binder.
“There’s no cheating. You know you are being watched,” said Deb Baker.
Kevin said the equipment for the processing center was bought in eastern Pennsylvania and trucked home. But that wasn’t before the entire family worked together to construct the building, including pouring their own cement and doing the plumbing work.
Once the equipment was home, the ODA had to get the serial numbers from the equipment to see if it was a setup that could be state approved.
Kevin explained that some systems used in Pennsylvania are not usable in Ohio and some used in Ohio are not always approved in Pennsylvania.
When the equipment arrived, the work began on designing the processing area. Baker said he had to figure out the best way to set it up in order to making cleaning it easier and utilizing the available space.
The family would milk the cattle and then head to the building to begin working on some portion of it, whether it was the processing room or another area of construction.
“As a family, we did everything to get it up and running,” said Deb.
The Bakers are also proud that they did the construction as funds permitted, so there was no debt.
“We took our time and did it a little bit at a time,” said Deb.
The Baker’s oldest son, Kurt, also works in construction and was able to do the work on the project.
The second son, Keith, does most of the field work and the youngest son, Kaleb, raises eggs and produces a garden. The produce is also being sold in the store now.
Kasey devotes her time to the cattle, and she and Deb are the farm’s milkers. After Kasey gets done with milking, she heads to the processing room and goes to work bottling milk.
“Any farm couple that is successful has a family behind them,” said Deb.
The family is also a believer in social media to market the milk. Baker’s Golden Dairy has a Facebook page and already consumers are using it to find the farm and purchase milk. In addition, consumers are using it to find out what else is available including beef, vegetables and homemade pies.
“We post it on there and they are here,” said Deb.
The strawberry, chocolate and whole milk can be purchased either at the farm on Carter Road or at Rudibaugh’s Feed and Grain in Wellsville, Greier’s Ag in Canfield and Horst’s at the corner of state Route 517 and state Route 7.
The processing room works like a factory assembly line, click here to view it on video.