Type: Farmstead Dairy
Years in operation: 3.5
Annual revenue: 50k-100k
(Average over last three years)
Orchard Hill Creamery is a small family operated dairy farm located in Unadilla, Nebraska operated by Andrew and Laura Chisholm along with their four children. We have thirty grass-fed Jersey and Jersey/ Normandy cross milk cows and produce cheeses, yogurts, and ice cream on the farm. Laura has been making cheese commercially since 2011, originally taking our milk to another local farm and having our cheese made there, then utiliziing a small vat located at University of Nebraska in Lincoln and making cheese there in cooperation with another local cheesemaker. We finished construction and opened our on farm micro-creamery in October 2013 and have been expanding and growing ever since. When we started Laura made cheese in a 30 gallon vat. Demand for our products grew and in the fall of 2015 we upgraded to a 105 gallon vat. Laura makes almost fourty different types of cheese, including fresh cheeses, hard cheeses, soft ripened, and washed rind beauties. We sell our cheeses in a couple of small retail stores in Omaha and Lincoln, to local chefs, and at farmers markets around Omaha and we have a Cheese of The Month Club with members across the country. In 2015 we added ice cream to our line of products which we sell at farmers markets, in a few small stores, and to one ice cream store in Omaha.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
We are a pasture based farm, our cows are grassfed and Certified Naturally Grown, which means that we farm without the use of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or GMO's. . We practice low stress management with our animals.. their health and happiness is extremely important to us. We model nature in all that we do here on the farm. Our animals are healthy and happy and we believe that makes a difference you can taste in our products.
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
Being a grass-based dairy we have really limited our inputs. There is no feed to figure into costs, nor machinery or space to store feeds. We are scaled to where we are able to manage our farm and produce our products ourselves, without outside employees. We have managed our product line where we use 75% of our milk on our most profitable products, (yogurts and ice cream).
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
Our biggest challenge is our pastures. Our pastures not only provide the feed for our cows they also live on the pastures. We grow our own alfalfa for winter feed as well. Whey, the by-product of cheese, is a wonderful soil amendment. It is rich in calcium and minerals that would greatly benefit our pasture and alfalfa and would increase the rate of growth and quality of both. We would use a Mortgage Lifter Lift to purchase the equipment needed to pump our whey out of the creamery into a mobile tank and then spray on our pastures. We would also install underground water lines to bring water out to our pastures for the cows. Currently, we are limited on what pastures we can graze during the hot months because of how far the cows must walk to drink. The pastures with more adequate shade trees are simply too far of a walk to water for us to use them from mid June till September. This not only significantly affects our milk production but also limits our herd size. If we had the irrigation lines to provide water in each pasture we would effectively double our pasture and begin working towards doubling our herd. The combination of being able to effectively utilize our by-product whey to boost the production of our grass and alfalfa, and have a water source in all of our pastures, would increase our milk production, (and subsequently our profitability). As a dairy.. our milk production is the basis of everything.
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
We started our farming journey as a way of addressing health issues by producing our own food. We soon fell in love with the cows, with the lifestyle and with the food. Cheesemaking has become an absolute passion for Laura. There is something almost magical about what we do... turning grass into cheese, yogurt and ice cream!
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