Cedar Summit Farm marks 10 years of on-farm processing
By Janet Kubat Willette
Date Modified: 07/09/2012 3:10 PM
NEW PRAGUE, Minn. — Cedar Summit Farm is celebrating ten years of on-farm milk processing with its third annual Milkapalooza on June 23.
The farm, located at 25830 Drexel Ave., New Prague, is one of seven dairies in Minnesota that processes milk on the farm. The Minars process milk from their dairy herd into non-homogenized milk, cream and drinkable yogurt and sell it direct to customers from their on-farm retail store.
Cedar Summit milk, cream and drinkable yogurt is also on the shelves in natural food stores and food cooperatives in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester and Brainerd. Cedar Summit products are found in Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota and Wisconsin. The Twin Cities is their biggest
Jaroslav Minar purchased what is now Cedar Summit Farm in 1926. The fifth generation of Minars are now working on the farm, milking cows on occasion and doing lawn care.
In 1969, Dave and Florence Minar began farming full time. They built a registered Holstein herd that was recognized at the state and national level.
Then in 1973, Dave suffered an allergic reaction to a herbicide. It was to be a turning point in their farming operation.
They discontinued the use of pesticides and began the conversion to what's now known as organic agricultural production.
Twenty years later, they sold the cows and bred heifers and started grazing. In 1994, they started milking again with a mixed herd and a rotational grazing setup.
Today, the herd of about 150 cows includes Jerseys, Milking Shorthorn, Holstein, Brown Swiss and Normande, said Mike Minar, a fourth generation family member who overseas day-to-day operation of the Cedar Summit Farm milk processing operation. Mike has two older siblings and two younger
siblings. He's the only one employed by the farm full time; the rest serve on the management team and own shares in the family operation.
The entire cattle herd is raised on grass, Minar said. Hogs are raised outdoors as well, grazing on five to six acres. The Minars buy 30 to 40 feeder pigs in the spring and process the hogs in late October. The hogs are raised on waste milk from the dairy, short dated processed milk and excess from Dave and Florence's garden. Their diet also includes some grain.
Dave still manages the dairy, but is transitioning duties to a new farm manager. The farm has eight employees and the processing plant has three full time besides Mike Minar. His wife, Merrisue, works part time in the office.
The farm's young stock are custom raised. A farmer near Jordan raises some and the rest are raised on grass near Kerkhoven.
"The people that buy our milk, they know they are looking for a grass-fed product," Minar said.
They also sell beef and pork in the on-farm store. Their meat buyers are concerned with how the animals are raised, he said. That's one of the reasons they leave calves on the cow for six to eight weeks after they're born. People like to see the calves with the mothers, Minar said. The calves are healthier if they stay with the cow, reducing their veterinary bill, and also saving labor costs associated with feeding calves.
Raising awareness about grass-based agriculture is one of the goals of their Milkapalooza.
The name for the farm's annual open house and customer appreciation event was created at an annual brainstorming meeting when family members gather to set strategy. They also hold monthly meetings that run about an hour to 90 minutes, Minar said.
The milk processing operation has changed a lot in the past 10 years, Minar said. They have reduced the number of products sold to focus on those that do best: Non-homogenized organic skim, 1 percent, 2 percent, whole and chocolate milk in cartons and returnable glass bottles, pints of cream, and drinkable plain and vanilla yogurt. They are working on two new products to launch by fall and one, drinkable raspberry yogurt, will be sampled at Milkapalooza.
The downturn in the economy hit them hard, Minar said. Their business peaked in 2007-08.
They have product in fewer stores and hired Co-op Partners Warehouse to do their distribution, which they formerly did themselves. Co-op Partners picks up product at the farm five days a week. They process milk Monday through Friday.
The on-farm store, which is connected to the processing plant, retails Cedar Summit products along with products from other area producers and artists. Going forward, they will carry eggs from a neighboring farm that has free-range chickens.
Milkapalooza has attracted between 600 to 1,000 people in years past and Minar is hoping for a big turnout. Several family members will be on hand to greet visitors.