February 26, 2022 at 2:03 a.m.
The family built a dairy farm and established a farmstead creamery to process and market milk produced by their small herd of Jersey cattle.
“Looking back, starting our own dairy from the ground up seems impossible,” said Amy Krahn. “If we had to do it over again today, we would not be able to afford it. Input prices have skyrocketed over the past year. I am just so grateful for the opportunity to continue doing what we love while producing a delicious and nutritious product for our community.”
Both Ben and Amy grew up on dairy farms; Ben lived in Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley and Amy near Mount Hood. They wanted to raise their daughters, Gracie and Clancey, with the same experiences they had on a farm. And so, they began laying the foundation for that dream in 2010 when they established Royal Riverside Farm in Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley.
“We stumbled upon a foreclosure that had a small piece of land, a whole lot of potential,” Amy said. “We literally purchased our property like you would buy a cow at an auction. It had no outbuildings or barn. The house was a pitiful mess, but we saw potential and jumped in head first … just like we live the rest of our lives – full throttle, wide open.”
Because of the high annual rainfall received in their area, the Krahns tiled the fields of their farm and then set upon building the farm as they could afford.
The first Jersey cattle came to Royal Riverside as project calves for Gracie and Clancey. As those heifers calved in, the Krahns began milking with a Surge bucket and feeding the milk to calves and pigs.
“We made a commitment that we would do everything possible to raise our daughters in a way that provided the valuable life skills that growing up on the farm instills,” Amy said. “We did not want to house our cattle in another facility and have our kids arrive at a dairy show and lead their cows for the first time in months. It was very important to us that we provided a lifestyle for our girls that instilled faith, family and farm values.”
As their herd began to grow, the Krahns explored the possibility of turning their hobby into a business with on-farm milk processing.
“We felt the nudge to start bottling our own milk for many years,” Amy said. “My grandparents owned their own bottling business and milk route, so it was on my heart for my entire adult life. Ben was also compelled to begin on-farm processing.”
In 2017, ground was broke on a multi-purpose facility that provides housing and milking facilities for the cows and is home to their processing operation.
“We hired a contractor to build the shell of the barn, and then we did all of the concrete and structural work ourselves,” Amy said. “Ben framed the walls, hung drywall and put in all the ceilings. The girls and I painted everything, interior and exterior. Together we poured all of the concrete floors, curbs and mangers. It took us almost six months of working every spare moment to finish the processing side.”
While the family worked to build the facility, Amy created a website and built customer interest through social media.
“We chose to package our milk in glass bottles to reduce waste and promote sustainability,” Amy said. “We capitalized on the health benefits of Jersey milk. We try to keep our milk as close to the natural state as possible.”
Raw milk sales are illegal in Oregon, so the Krahns pasteurize their milk using vat pasteurization but chose to market non-homogenized milk.
“We produced our first bottle of Royal Riverside Farm milk in January of 2018,” Amy said. “I will never forget watching the milk splash into the bottom of our little bulk tank. I cried. I think we all cried. It was a huge dream come true for us.”
When the Krahns started bottling their milk, they were milking eight cows and selling the milk at one store and a winter farmers market. Today, the Krahns are producing at capacity, milking 30 cows and supplying milk to 45 stores and coffee shops in Oregon. They also added the Classy Cow Farmstand in response to the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
“We saw a huge jump in milk sales,” Amy said. “When local grocery stores ran out of milk, people started showing up at our farm to buy directly. We converted our garden shed into a farmstand, offering an assortment of our milk products along with grass-fed beef, all-natural pork, free-range eggs and a variety of produce and baked goods.”
Going hand-in-hand with marketing their milk, the Krahns are passionate about increasing agricultural literacy. They use social media platforms and offer tours to educate consumers in their area.
“It is unreal to me how many people are excited to learn about how cows are milked and where their milk comes from,” Amy said. “Our customers love knowing the cows that are producing the milk they drink. It has been rewarding to have so much community support.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of their farm for Ben and Amy is that the entire family is involved in the day-to-day activities of operating the farm.
“It is truly a family-run operation, and each individual contributes valuably to the system,” Amy said. “I love working side by side with my husband every day. I love operating as a family, and we joyfully produce milk every day, working side by side together with our beautiful little brown cows. I cannot imagine anything more gratifying.”
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