Aubrey Schatz and Scott Hoffman don’t consider themselves to be raw-milk zealots, but the owners of Family Cow Farmstand are pleased so many people enjoy the product their cows produce.
The couple purchased Family Cow in Hinesburg in April 2016. “We saw an opportunity to buy a cool business model,” Hoffman said. “Direct-market dairy farms aren’t very common, and this farm was situated close to a population center with an interest in local and natural food. That might not be the case everywhere.”
Schatz and Hoffman married just a few months after buying the farm. They each began their farming careers working in diversified vegetable market gardens in California, Maine and Pennsylvania. They met in Essex, N.Y. working on a farm with a year-round CSA. “We like that model of farming,” Hoffman said. “People don’t have to go to the grocery store unless they need olive oil or peanut butter.”
The couple began switching to dairy and when they saw Family Cow for sale in Hinesburg, they decided to cross the lake.
On the farm, Hoffman and Schatz milk 10 Jersey and Milking Shorthorn cows twice a day. During grazing season, the cows get rotated to new pasture after each milking. The milk is taken directly to a refrigerated bulk tank where it is cooled to 35 degrees and then decanted into half-gallon glass containers.
The state of Vermont limits raw milk farms from selling more than 50 gallons a day, due to concerns about mass distribution of products that don’t comply with the Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. Family Cow produces 30 gallons.
They would like to increaseto the legal limit, but in the meantime they supplement their income with roughly 800 pasture-raised broiler chickens. In addition, they feature other local farmers at their renovated farm stand, including products from Trillium Hill and Besteyfield farms in Hinesburg, Footprint Farm in Starksboro, Last Resort Farm in Monkton, and Maple Wind Farm in Richmond and Huntington. “It’s nice to have diversified production,” Hoffman said “and we’re happy to have relationships with other farmers.”
Hoffman said many of their customers swear by the benefits of raw milk. “Some say amazing things about it,” he said. Since the milk is not pasteurized, the naturally present enzymes and nutrients remain in the product. Many customers have been buying consistently from the farm and its two previous owners, since it was first established in 2008. Roughly 40 percent of Family Cow’s customers receive weekly deliveries while the rest visit the farm stand.
“We’re into this for the type of farming it allows us to practice,” Hoffman said. “We like being connected to the community and the fact that our environmental footprint is very low and the cows are 100 percent grass-fed.”
Being part of the community is easy in Hinesburg, where it’s easy to make connections, Hoffman said. “We like that this is an old town and very community-oriented. It’s nice to know people are so supportive of farming,” he said.
Both farmers are thankful for their new and old customers. “We really love farming and working with cows,” Hoffman said. “It’s very rewarding to manage them in an environmentally friendly, low-stress system. It’s challenging to make sure they are happy and healthy, but challenging in a good way.”