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Dairy Producer Has a Local-Minded Approach

Writer / Angela Cornell

Photography Provided

Amish Country DairyMilk comes from cows, but how does it get into bottles and to stores? According to Leon Miller, one of the co-owners of Amish Country Dairy, the process starts with milking happy cows.

“They have comfortable bedding, feed, and all they want in water,” he explains.

The cows are then taken to the milking parlor, a special room designed for milking cows. The milk is then transferred to a refrigerated holding tank on-site, where the milk is chilled to 38 degrees within an hour. The milk stays there until it is time to process it.

For a dairy producer like Amish Country Dairy that is locally owned and locally sold, the milk is only stored for a few hours before going to the next step. In comparison, milk that is purchased by larger dairy corporations may remain on a farm up to 48 hours, and then is trucked to the processing plant’s silo, where it remains for two to four days before it is processed.

At Amish Country Dairy, however, the wait between chilling and processing is much shorter.

“Some of the milk that got harvested yesterday will be in the store today,” Miller says.

From the farm, the milkman takes the milk to the processing facility, where it is pasteurized at 168 degrees for 16 seconds to remove all pathogens, and again quickly chilled.

Another aspect that sets Amish Country Dairy products apart is that the milk is not homogenized.

“When milk is homogenized, it goes through a machine that uses high pressure to mash the fat molecules and ties everything together,” Miller says. “Then it won’t separate. We don’t do that. We are looking for as natural as the good Lord made the milk as we possibly can. That is why the cream comes to the top. Real milk, in its natural state, separates.”

Amish Country DairyAmish Country Dairy sells regular whole milk as well as flavored milks, such as coffee maple, strawberry, peach, chocolate, and others depending on the season. After the milk has been pasteurized, the flavors – all of which come from whole fruit and other real ingredients – are added.

“In each of the [fruit-flavored] bottles, 22% of the product in the bottle is fruit,” Miller explains. “It’s very satisfying and high quality.”

In the fruit and chocolate milks, cane sugar is also added. In the coffee maple, on the other hand, the only ingredients are milk, coffee concentrate, and regionally sourced maple syrup.

Once it is combined, it is sent to the bottler, where it is separated into 16-ounce or 59-ounce bottles. From there, it’s packaged and sent out to stores throughout northern Indiana.

Not only is Amish Country Dairy fresher than many brands, it also better supports the small farmer.

“These small dairy farms are going out of business,” Miller says. “That’s because there’s not enough money. The farmers are competing against each other – who can make the most milk the cheapest. It’s got to be profitable or it’s not sustainable.”

With local dairy producers selling to local stores, however, the small-time dairy farmer has a higher chance at success while providing a delicious product for customers.

Amish Country Dairy

“Our goal is to assist the small family farmer stay on the land by providing top-quality dairy products to our customers,” Miller says.

At present, only four dairy farmers are involved in Amish Country Dairy. As the company grows, Miller hopes that will change.

“We hope to get big enough so that we can supply a market or provide a market for many small dairy farmers in the region,” he says.

Being a dairy farmer is a very rewarding process for Miller. However, one of his favorite parts of the business is sharing the milk with others.

“I enjoy taking the product out and letting people taste it, and watching their eyes light up and saying, ‘Wow, that’s a good product.’”

To find an Amish Country Dairy store near you or to contact them, check out acountrydairy.com. Locally owned businesses interested in becoming distributors are encouraged to call John Kuhns at 574-323-1701 or email john@acountrydairy.net. You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

Amish Country Dairy

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