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Archive for Monday, April 24, 2006

Milking it for all it’s worth

Dairies find success in a bottle

April 24, 2006

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— The Iwig family has been in the dairy cattle business for seven decades. But a year ago, that tradition was in danger.

"There's not any money in it," Tim Iwig said of traditional dairy industry practices, where farmers sell their product to big companies that process and sell the milk, in plastic and cardboard containers, to grocery stores.

"You don't have any control over your price, and your milk is getting blended with everybody else's milk, and you're not able to get a good price," Iwig said. "You get what you're told the market will pay, and that's not enough. And it fluctuates its way up and its way down. You can never plan."

In October, though, the Iwigs started doing things differently. They decided to keep their own milk and pasteurize and package it in glass bottles reminiscent of the mid-20th century and earlier. They started selling their products straight off the farm and directly to area grocery stores, cutting out the middleman.

Suddenly, the Iwigs are profitable again.

"We can sell that (glass-bottled milk) for a higher price," Iwig said, "because people know they'll get good-tasting milk."

The Iwigs have joined at least two other regional farmers in the glass-bottled milk business - not exactly a trend, but an increasingly visible way for small farms to stay in business and make money.

"It's been unbelievable," said Leroy Shatto, who owns the Shatto Milk Co. that sells to Kansas City-area stores. "It's working."

Better income

Will Newhouse and his family near Wellsville were the first in the chute, back in 2001, after getting fed up with low profits from traditional dairy farming.

"It got to be where you weren't making any money," Newhouse said. "You were just barely getting by.

"There wasn't anything more disgusting than working that hard, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and not making any more money than you would if you'd gone down to Dairy Queen."

He bought a giant pasteurizing vat and bottling equipment, and started selling directly to Lawrence-area stores, including the Community Mercantile Co-op and Hy-Vee.

"If you produce it, process it and market it yourself, you have more control over your destiny than if you take what the co-ops are taking," Newhouse said.

Others took notice. The Shattos, in Osborn, Mo., followed the Newhouses into business in June 2003.

"It was either try to figure out some way to make money with these cows, or they were going to go," Leroy Shatto said. "All my other friends in the dairy business got smart and quit."

Iwig was the most recent to join, getting help from an agent who helped him buy 1950s-era bottling equipment that had been abandoned in New York - reflecting the fact that it's been a long time since most people purchased their milk in glass bottles.

"Most of what we have in there is 1950s, 1960s vintage-type equipment," Tim Iwig said.

Despite the success, Kansas State University agricultural economist Allen Featherstone said the do-it-yourself dairies will be a niche market. But those who take advantage of the niche, he said, should do well.

"In some sense, you're capturing more of the consumer dollar by doing the processing on the farm," Featherstone said.

Distinctive taste

At the Merc, Newhouse glass-bottled milk is one of the grocery store's more popular items.

"They just love it," said Laurell Matthews, an assistant general manager for the store, 901 Iowa. "It's a very popular line for us."

There are several reasons for that. First there's the glass bottle - what Newhouse acknowledged was a "marketing tool" aimed at people who remember fondly a time when deliverymen dropped milk off at your front door. And each of the three farmers said the glass helps keep the milk tastier for longer.

There's also the flavor. Because Newhouse, Shatto and Iwig don't sell to a co-op that blends their milk with other producers' milk, each has a distinctive taste different from the mass-produced milk mostly found in grocery stores.

"They know when they get it it's going to be good, and it's going to keep in the refrigerator," Iwig said.

The result, Shatto said, is that "we got pride back in what we do. I was in the dairy business for 30 years and nobody ever told me how good our product was."

The three farms have, so far, stayed out of each other's way, selling their milk in different, though neighboring, regions.

"There's enough market," Newhouse said, "for everyone who wants to be in the business."

Comments

yoornotmee 5 years, 7 months ago

Without a doubt, the Iwig's is the best milk I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I can't settle for any less now.

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bobberboy 7 years, 6 months ago

Iwig Milk is GREAT. Buy it - you won't be disappointed. The only person I know so far that couldn't taste any difference in Iwig milk versus grocery store milk was a gal born in the 80's. So be warned if you have never tasted real good milk before you may not be able to recognize how good it is.

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b_asinbeer 7 years, 11 months ago

Their milk is actually very good. I'd give it 4 cows out of 4...

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unconservitiveperson 7 years, 11 months ago

I just saw macon with some illegal ballons tied to his car..... LOL

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snuffysmif 7 years, 11 months ago

This is one of those articles that makes you want to go out and buy a bottle of milk. I sure like good milk.

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law 7 years, 11 months ago

I'm going to start buying that stuff now. Sounds good.

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topflight 7 years, 11 months ago

I bought my first Iwig bottle the other week. Chocolate, and it was damn good. Keep up the good work.

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topekan7 7 years, 11 months ago

Iwig milk is incredible! I refuse to drink any other brand of milk.

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ljreader 7 years, 11 months ago

oops wrong url. But I bet that made people mad, when the glass thing was broken. Good thing they didn't have bottled milk back then. Heres the hotdog thing: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/apr...

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ljreader 7 years, 11 months ago

macon used to give away free hotdogs, but I guess he got an attitude, because now he won't even talk about it. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/1999/apr...

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geekin_topekan 7 years, 11 months ago

Did somebody say FREE HOTDOGS??!!

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unconservitiveperson 7 years, 11 months ago

I see macon blew a fuse again... Hey pal- if you got nothin new to say.....shut up! You are like a talking jack in the box that won't shut up.... yak yak....yak...... What are babbling about? I don't understand babble! Have a nice dayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

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unconservitiveperson 7 years, 11 months ago

Yeah- tell em porky.... oink oink..... Oh, hows the old cholerstoral??????

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PorkRibs 7 years, 11 months ago

Did someone say free milk?

I'm telling ya folks. If you like enjoy an ice cold glass of milk for dinner just about every night like I do then you should definitely treat yourselves to some local "glass bottle" milk.

I agree....if your getting it free.....stop bitching.

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cutny 7 years, 11 months ago

Hey Macon, what's up? Back on your whining and complaining/freeloader kick again? Yawn....what a surprise...

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ljreader 7 years, 11 months ago

Well, I'm back. It didn't take me too long, because I never shop at Walmart. They didn't have a line at the recycling place, but they made me carry it myself. What's up with THAT?

Would someone please proofread my posts for me- for free? I mis-spelled "calendar", and I had to catch it myself. I guess I just have to do evrything myself. Of course, if anyone pointed it out to me, I'd be deeply wounded, as I am fragile. I'm just glad it didn't cost me anything to post. At least something's perfect.

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gccs14r 7 years, 11 months ago

GardenMomma,

Care to enlighten the folks who'd rather not recycle at Wal-Mart what you found?

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Bill Smith 7 years, 11 months ago

macon47 stop...please! It's the republican politicians that have the big fear about raising taxes for anything because they're afraid they will lose votes. I am sorry folks but our government can only run on the taxes dollars it collects. I am not sure how the conservative republicans expect to pay for all their initiatives without raising taxes. Oh yea, I forget, they take the money from the social services programs, education, and the arts. My bad!

I am one of those liberals that often times are criticized on here. However, I would be more than happy to pay a bit more in local taxes so the City of Lawrence can have its own recycling program and curb side pick-up. Then I wouldn't be forced to use the Wal-Mart recycle center. I would also be more than happy to pay a bit more in state/federal taxes to ensure that we have adequate funding for social service programs, education, and the arts. I am pissed off that my taxes dollars now go to fund a war, to subsidize big businesses, oil, and all the other pork barrel crap programs of this administration.

So macon47, in short, your conservative republican rhetoric pisses this liberal, democrat off!

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ljreader 7 years, 11 months ago

Macon, I never heard back from you about my free hotdogs. I don't remember how long ago it was that I asked you for those, so I guess it would help if you'd go ahead and throw in a calander, afterall. I have some free garbage that blew into my yard, so I have to go out and use the free recycling at Walmart to get rid of it. I'll check back later. I hope they don't have a line. I hate it when they have a line. It ruins my perfect day.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

Aren't you going to answer my question, Macon? Or are you just another "fragile young liberal?"

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GardenMomma 7 years, 11 months ago

When Wal-Mart shut down its recycling center I found a better place to go. They take everything Wal-Mart does AND you don't have to separate your plastics AND they pay you for aluminium and steel to boot!

It's just too bad that there will be another Wal-Mart in town. I mean, do we really need one? Are the people who live on the northwest side of town really going to shop there or won't they prefer to buy better quality things? C'mon!

The LJW seems to have corrected the spelling errors.

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macon47 7 years, 11 months ago

I have only lived in Lawrence about 15 yrs so I doubt if I will ever understand the thinking of these fragile young liberals. The city seems to be deeply entrenched A group of people that expect everything for free. Zip, zero, nada, zilch. They don't want to pay a dime for anything , just let the masses pay for it, and they will reap the benefits. Wal-mart is an excellent example. The company sells nearly a billion dollars a day thru their stores. Since walmart makes so much money, they deserve to take in the garbage from their non customers. These freeloaders want free parks, free schools, free libraries, Low cost transportation, free free free, just let the guys next door pay for it. The ironic part is if any of this FREE STUFF isn't perfect, they Whine and complain, like the newspaper mistakes that are read on line, or when Wallyworlds trash service was shut down. Or if a park has weeds or tall grass? How can anyone complain about free? Rules? We don't want no stinkin? Rules?, we have rights, and freedoms We don't have to obey any law we don't want to if it doesn't fit our lifestyle.

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znsh18 7 years, 11 months ago

I can't drink those big name milks, taste more like water. I love their whole milk & I drink milk every morning. I hope with the opening of new wal-mart I can still get this milk from Hyvee each week. Thank you guys for the great service & quality product..

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

Are you paying your fee to post here, macon, or are you a freeloader like the rest of us?

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macon47 7 years, 11 months ago

yes, but it does make you wonder if the whiners even pay for the paper? OR do they read it online FOR FREE and still complain kinda like the freeloaders that hate walmart, but still take their garbage to them since the stores they shop at wont take in trash

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 11 months ago

But look on the bright side, macon. It gives you a reason to pull out your highly effective all-caps technique to drive home just exactly how "HO HUM" it is.

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macon47 7 years, 11 months ago

YOU CAN ALLWAYS TELL ITS A SLOW DAY WHEN FOLKS DONT HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO BUT PROOFREAD THE DAILY PAPER AND THEN WHINE ABOUT IT HO HUM

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jrlii 7 years, 11 months ago

Worse than that, Vermooten, They can't tell a possessive from a plural!

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Vermooten 7 years, 11 months ago

Interesting article: more power to them.

Doesn't the Journal-World proofread its writing? Whoever wrote the photo captions thinks that the plural of calf is calf's. It's not. The word should be calves. The error appeared at least twice. C'mon, guys!

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