Local Spotlight—Ocheesee Creamery
Natural Times, January/February/March 2012
By Michele Hatton
Tucked away in rural Calhoun County, Florida, Shady Nook Farm is home to 200 or so head of Jersey cows. Shady Nook is better known as Ocheesee Creamery, a name that can’t be missed if you’re shopping for milk at New Leaf Market. Packaged in thick glass bottles, which are returnable, Ocheesee milk is reminiscent of earlier times when unadulterated milk was sold in these same glass bottles from a farm just down the road. (Ocheesee is an hour drive from Tallahassee.)
Ocheesee is a mixture of old-fashioned family farming (three generations) with state-of-the-art equipment and know-how, and a commitment to natural, humane and environmentally sound methods of farming. The farm is dotted with pecan trees, has a small creamery/bottling plant on the property, and a dog that cracks opens his own pecans. Local and natural…you can taste the wholesomeness in the milk!
Mary Lou and Paul Wesselhoeft took over the family farm in 1989. In 2006, they switched to grass-feeding their dairy cows and supplementing the grass diet with high-quality feed, vitamins, minerals, sea salt licks, and fermented hay (made right there on the farm). “The taste of the milk improved and the cows became more content,” says Mary Lou. “It’s like a buffet; they can eat hay, grass, grain—whatever they choose.” According to Mary Lou, good nutrition is the bottom line. “It is so important to have the feed right. If the feed is right you don’t have the health problems.”
I met the cows. They padded quietly into the barn on Mary Lou’s call. My first thought was, “These girls are in pristine health. Sleek coats, clear eyes, plump, relaxed…” “We try to do as much as we can for our cows comfort,” said Mary Lou. “We have soft pads on the floor of the barn for warmth. We put warm water on the udders during winter. We feed our babies cow milk, not powdered milk.” As we chatted, one Jersey girl leaned into the backscratcher (an oversized bottle brush activated by the weight of a cow’s back). Her soft cow-face melted to butter as she eased into her rubdown.
Later, Mary Lou pushed a button and in five seconds flat the barn floor flooded with water washing away all traces of manure left behind by the cows. The Wesselhoefts installed this system to recycle the nutrients in barn manure. After composting, the manure is then pumped onto the fields for fertilizer.
New Leaf Market carries several Ocheesee products: whole and skim milk (look on the bottle cap to identify which), raw milk (ask a NLM employee to get this for you in the back room), cream, chocolate milk and butter. Mary Lou reminded me that the fat in grass-fed dairy makes milk protein digestible. In fact, a number of scientific studies show that milk from grass-fed cows not only has a richer taste, but also is higher in beta-carotene, conjugated linoleic acid, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Ocheesee also makes drinkable yogurt. If you are in the neighborhood, stop in. You can buy these and other products at their small storefront located right on the farm.