Businesses are always challenged with being innovative and developing new cash flows. This is particularly true in the dairy industry which has faced a mountain of challenges in the past and seen a lot of family dairies sell their herds.
McClelland Dairy in the Two Rock Valley has found many ways to innovate and diversify their dairy business. From a pumpkin patch to farm tours to European style butter their dairy has come a long way from the six cows it started with.
Bob and Lillian McClelland originally purchased six Brown Swiss cows in 1938, starting the McClelland Family’s legacy of owning dairy cattle in the North Bay. They bought their Sonoma County ranch in 1965, celebrating 50 years of farming on the same property this year.
In 1965, the McClelland’s had 100 cows, but today that has grown to more than 1,000 head of Holsteins and Jerseys. Bob and Lillian’s son George later took over the family business and now runs it with his wife Dora and their daughter Jana.
In 2003, they went through the process of converting the ranch to organic including having 500 acres of organic pasture for their cows on their home ranch. They have an additional 1,000 acres for growing silage.
For a dairy, organic means no hormones or antibiotics and allowing cattle to graze on pasture for 120 days per grazing season. Since converting to organic, the McClellands said their cows are living longer.
McClelland Dairy started making European style butter in 2009. European style butter has a higher butterfat content than everyday butter. Whereas standard butter is normally 80% butterfat, European style is 82% or greater and McClelland Dairy pushes 85%, said Jana McClelland.
The higher butterfat content, for which Jersey cows are known for, produces a richer flavor in butter and is often used in baking to make flakier pastries.
Following their success with butter, McClelland Dairy hopes to expand into high quality cheese in the future.
Recently, the McClelland family has expanded their livestock production from cattle to include poultry. They started with 13 chickens and now have more than 1,000 laying hens. They sell the eggs locally at several stores including Oliver’s Markets.
McClelland Dairy also hosts farm tours. They have developed a “whole day at the farm” where children and adults can have a hands-on experience. The tours end with participants milking cows by hand. Jana described the young children as either really excited or really scared to milk a cow.
The dairy hosts public tours approximately once a month. In addition to the general public, they also put on tours for local schools. The McClelland family is passionate about agriculture education and giving individuals outside of agriculture an opportunity to see a working farm.
“It’s fun to do tours,” said Jana, “we can show people where their food comes from.”
In September and October the McClellands also sell pumpkins to the general public. They grow more than 30 varieties of certified organic pumpkins which customers can pick off the vine. New this year, the McClelland’s pumpkin patch will feature a pumpkin launcher.
When asked why they have expanded from a traditional dairy to a diversified organic farm, Jana said they are excited to try new things.
The McClellands farm has been called “the hippy dairy” and Jana says they’ve embraced the name as they’ve expanded their business beyond a traditional dairy.
As for Premium Membership, the McClelland Family knows the Sonoma County Farm Bureau is the agriculture advocate they want in their corner. For the dairy, the Animal Resource Committee which works with the local water boards on new regulations and has developed an independent monitoring program has been extremely beneficial.
The McClelland Family knows that Premium Membership will support the organization that stays on top of local issues as well as having advocates at the state and national levels.