ASHLAND, Ohio — It has been a family project two years in the making, but Buckeye Country Creamery officially opened to the public in early October during the Ashland County farm tour. And just hours before its grand opening, the Lahmers family awaited final approval to sell their own milk bottled right on the farm.
It was a challenging two-year process, said owner Marcia Lahmers, learning a separate set of regulations to maintain the creamery and the dairy, and learning to prepare all the dairy products they intend to sell. While dairying is a strong suit of the Lahmers family, dairy processing was a new adventure.
The dairy farm
Marcia and Tom Lahmers started the family dairy when they moved to Ashland, Ohio, in 1988. With the help of their children, Matt Lahmers, Christy Hulse — who each have families of their own now — and Michele Lahmers, Lahmers Dairy Farm is a true family affair, said Marcia. Christy manages the dairy herd, milking around 100 head of cows that are a mix of Holstein, Brown Swiss and some Jersey cattle, while Tom and Matt can usually be found working the land. Michele took a job off the farm with Cargill, but serves as the dairy’s nutritionist.
The Lahmers farm 500 acres of hay, corn and soybeans that mostly go toward feed for the dairy herd. Marcia, Christy’s husband, Joel, and Matt’s wife, Heather, have taken the lead when it comes to the creamery, although it requires all hands on deck at times.
Making a creamery
“We didn’t know anything about this,” said Heather Lahmers, explaining the family had to learn everything about bottling milk and making ice cream, cheese and yogurt products.
“We visited with 14 different farms, just getting ideas on setup and the best way for marketing our own product,” said Joel Hulse. For two years, the family has been making milk a couple gallons at a time, playing around with different recipes in the family kitchen, he said.
And they’ve gone from two gallons in the kitchen to a 300-gallon pasteurizing tank in the new creamery. The creamery can store around 600-900 gallons of milk before it is bottled for consumers.
Along with a standard white milk in whole and 2 percent offerings, Buckeye Country Creamery also offers chocolate milk and will soon be adding more flavors like strawberry and a flavor of the week to its inventory.
What makes them different from other dairies that bottle their own milk? Marcia said they are focusing on providing A2 milk along with traditional A1 milk. A1 and A2 beta caseins are naturally occurring proteins found in milk. A2 milk contains only the A2 variant, which is believed by some to reduce the effects of lactose intolerance compared to milk containing both caseins.
Related: Myths and facts of A2 milk trend
A small group of cows on the Lahmers farm have been tested for the A2 protein and will be bred specifically to provide this type of milk. Marcia said they will eventually provide other dairy products specifically with A2 milk.
Along with milk, Marcia said the creamery will provide ice cream, drinkable yogurt and eventually cheese. All of these products take time to develop and have required family members to take some classes. Joel said he attended six different cheese schools to learn the art of cheese making. Other products just require practice and learning by trial and error.
“Making ice cream is a lot harder than you would think,” said Heather. She said the challenge was in the freezing process. Christy has been working on perfecting the yogurt recipe by experimenting in her home kitchen.
As well as selling their product right of the farm (currently open Saturdays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.), Marcia said there has been interest in wholesale from farm markets in Ashland, Holmes and Crawford counties.
“We’re all still finding our place,” said Marcia, as they iron out the kinks in this newest family endeavor. Michele has taken on some of the marketing tasks by creating a website and facebook page to share the story of Buckeye Creamery. “We’ve all helped wherever we are needed and it is truly a family affair.”
How to find them
- Buckeye Country Creamery is located at 1698 state Route 511,
- Current hours on the farm are Saturdays, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- For more information visit here.
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