Local Spotlight--Working Cows Organic Dairy
By Gretchen Hein
What do you get when you feed 120 pounds of organic grass, dry hay, minerals and 40 gallons of water to an animal that has four stomachs and eats on the average of 20 hours a day? Great tasting, pure, organic milk. In 1985 Jan and Rinske DeJong arrived in Cottondale, Florida from Holland with the dream of owning their own dairy farm. After all, this is the land of opportunity and a dairy farm was their dream.
They started by milking for a farmer, used their savings to rent a few dairy cows, and supplemented their income with homegrown watermelons sold at a roadside stand along Highway 231. Two years later, with 29 of their own cows they relocated to a rental farm outside Graceville, Florida. Not only did their herd grow from 29 to 220, but their family expanded with the birth of three sons. In 1991 they moved to Slocomb, Alabama onto their own land.
Several years into the process the DeJong’s became weary of the ups and downs of the milk industry, the cost of feed and most importantly the rate at which their cows were “wearing out.” They turned their attention to organic dairy farming-–feeding their cows organically grown grass and hay from their farm to the animals that were providing them with their livelihood. Both the land and the cows had to undergo the transition to organic. During the process, the overall amount of milk produced per cow dropped, but the number of years a cow was able to produce milk more than doubled. Jan says that the lifestyle of his cows improved over 400% and that stress-free cows produce better tasting milk. The boys built a bottling facility and in May 2010 they started selling Grade A, pasteurized organic dairy products.
Working Cows Diary was up and running selling rich and creamy milk in three states: Alabama, Georgia and Florida. If you live close to the dairy, you can stop by and fill your own milk bottles, but the rest of us can find it in the Co-op’s dairy case. Working Cows Dairy uses a low temperature pasteurization process, heating the milk at a low temperature for 30 minutes to destroy harmful bacteria while maintaining the ones that help keep our bodies healthy.
If you enjoy milk, you’ll find a glass of fresh-from-the-farm Working Cows Dairy milk just the drink to complement your cookie, a sandwich or a morning bowl of cereal. It’s local. Not too far down the road the cows are well loved and the farmers are living a dream come true!