September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

On-farm creamery adds value

Misty Meadow's ice cream, bottled milk proving popular
Misty Meadow Farm includes Justin and Jenny Malott and their children, Addison, Jillian and Vivian. Jenny is the herd manager and Justin works with the crops on their 600-cow dairy near Smithsburg, Md.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED
Misty Meadow Farm includes Justin and Jenny Malott and their children, Addison, Jillian and Vivian. Jenny is the herd manager and Justin works with the crops on their 600-cow dairy near Smithsburg, Md.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED

By By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

SMITHSBURG, Md. - Milk more cows or find a way to add value to the milk?
That's the question the people at Misty Meadow Farm, Smithsburg, Maryland, had to answer. David and Betsy Herbst and their children were advised by the experts that they needed to milk 600 cows to support everyone.
"I liked our 100-to-150-cow herd the way it was," said Jenny Malott, one of the Herbsts' daughters.
They decided to make the farm's milk worth more money. The older Herbsts began visiting on-farm creameries and elected to try their hands at that.
Misty Meadow Farm Creamery opened in 2012. It turns out its own bottled milk and crafts a long list of ice cream flavors, plus fresh cheese curds.
David and Betsy run the creamery, aided by another daughter, Kimberly West. Meanwhile, Jenny and her husband, Justin, and Jenny's brother, Andrew, handle the farm work.
Jenny, an unabashed cow girl, manages the herd of approximately 150 registered Holsteins and Brown Swiss. Armed with a dairy science degree from Delaware Valley College, she especially enjoys the genetics aspect of the cattle.
Justin, with a business degree from Shenandoah University, has more of an affinity for working with crops. Said Jenny, "That makes for a good mix."
The farm has been in the family since 1918, when David and Betsy's grandparents bought the first 50 acres. Over the years it has grown to 800 acres, owned and rented.
Its crops include corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and grasses. The cattle graze much of the year, but are also fed a total mixed ration.
The milking string averages 70 to 72 pounds of milk a day, according to Jenny. That's on twice-a-day milking in a double-six herringbone parlor.
Although the goal of opening an on-farm creamery was to add value to the milk, less than two percent of the herd's production goes there, Justin said. The rest is sold to the Maryland-Virginia Milk Producers, a cooperative. Some of the milk gets bottled and some goes to a milk powder plant in Laurel, Md.
The farm is making money even on the milk that does not flow through the creamery. Justin estimated the farm's recent mailbox price at about $25. Milk that goes to the farm's creamery might end up valued at $30 to $35 per hundredweight, he figured.
Misty Meadow Creamery bottles the kind of milk that many of today's grandparents once knew. It's dubbed "creamline" because of the line that forms in the bottle where the actual milk meets the cream that's on top.
To let that cream line form, the milk is not homogenized, though it is pasteurized. It's whole milk - not two percent, one percent or skim. That means the bottle needs to be shaken to mix in the cream.
The creamery also produces some 50 flavors of ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt and gelato. Customers can choose from an alphabet list that runs from 'A' to 'W' - almond to wild berry.
One of the colorful ice cream names is "Dizzy Cow," possibly from the swirls of chocolate and crunchy cookies that are in it.
"Granny's Crumb is good. That's probably our best seller. I like Butterfinger," Justin said.
The creamery sits on the edge of the farm along Misty Meadow Road. It's close enough to the barn to be an easy stroll when a sultry, summer afternoon cries out for a cold ice cream cone.
Ice cream season is upon Maryland once again. Justin said business picks up at the end of April and the first part of May. When that happens, many people stop by for ice cream, milk shakes, floats, banana splits and sundaes.
Besides dairy products, the farm offers its own beef, pork and eggs at its retail store that is open all year. Another attraction is the petting zoo that includes goats, sheep, a pair of pigs, a dairy calf, and two miniature horses.
Helping make the creamery and store successful is the fact that the family's area of Washington County is quite well populated in places. It's near population centers, too. Hagerstown lies nearby; Baltimore is some 90 miles distant, and Washington, D.C. is a bit farther.
"Thankfully," said Jenny, "we still have farms around us. But you don't have to go far in any direction to get to houses."
But all those nonfarm people can make farming difficult, too. A new Wal-mart recently went up five miles away, and that store brings more traffic past the creamery and store.
"We might sit at an intersection five or 10 minutes, waiting to pull out," Justin said. Going up and down the road transporting equipment is challenging."
There are also laws that aim to protect the environment that add to the challenges of dairying. The Chesapeake Bay lies approximately 100 miles to the east, and nutrients from manure and fertilizers making their way into it have long been a concern.
"Our regulations in Maryland are three times worse than anywhere else that you can possibly imagine," said Justin.
He pointed out that nutrient management plans and restrictions on when manure can be applied are in force for both larger farms and smaller ones. "It doesn't matter," he said, "whether you're milking 30 cows or a few hundred, or even if you have beef animals."
Maryland's restrictions on manure applications are in force from Nov. 15 through March 1, Justin said. That means plenty of storage is needed.
The Herbst farm has two pits for liquid manure - one under the freestall barn for 800,000 gallons plus another one for 280,000 gallons.
There's also storage for bedded-pack manure. That manure goes into dry stack pits. Those three pits have concrete floors, concrete walls eight feet high, and roofs to keep rain and snow out.
"People know the (environmental) regulations and they're constantly watching you," Justin said. "We do the best we can to try to create a good perception."
Thanks partly to the manure regulations, Justin prefers to not add cows. But growing more crops could be another matter.
"I enjoy the challenges and risks and seeing how good a job we can do. I enjoy running equipment and seeing how nice I can get my corn to look, and how good of yield we can get," he said.
Last year's corn averaged 200 to 220 bushels per acre, depending on the soil type.
As mentioned earlier, Jenny likes working with the cattle and improving the herd that carries the prefix of MD Misty Meadow.
"I personally take pride in what I can do with my cows," she said. "I like bringing the two-year-olds off the pasture and watching those rear udders walk in. And I like bringing the second group in and picking out my 12-year-old cows. I joke with Justin that I've got cows have been with me longer than him."
That affection for dairy cows is being passed on to the couple's three daughters - Addison, (6); Jillian, (4); and Vivian, (2). Jenny is thinking about flushing one of the Excellent cows to get show calves for the girls to eventually care for as 4-H projects.
Jenny's affinity for bovines goes way back. As she said, "I've liked cows ever since I was old enough to kick a bucket down into the parlor and stand on it and milk."
[[In-content Ad]]


You must login to comment.

Top Stories

Today's Edition



27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.