Diversification key to farm’s success
By JULIA HOLLISTER
For the Capital Press
PETALUMA, Calif. — Dairy farmer Jana McClelland said if someone called to ask about getting into the dairy farming, she would have to reply: “I hope you love cows because they are a lot of work.”
McClelland’s Dairy started 76 years ago when her grandfather and grandmother immigrated from Ireland to began dairy farming in Northern California. They had a small herd that they milked by hand and delivered the milk to customers along a regular route.
The company was called “From She to Thee.” The family moved to the Two Rock area near Petaluma and the herd grew to 199 cows.
“All this leads to what we do today,” McClelland said. “In the late ’90s we began looking for ways to diversify and get more out of the marketplace. So we moved to organic in 2003 with Holstein, Jerseys and Brown Swiss cows.”
She grazes the cattle on 500 acres.
Regulations are expensive and time-consuming, she said.
“I never realized when I began in the dairy industry that so much time, money and paperwork is needed to comply with all the different regulations,” she said. “I know they are here for a good reason — to protect the people and animals — but it really deters from what we do on a daily basis.”
The farm is 9 miles from the ocean that provides moderate temperatures and a good growing season for the pasture. The McClellands lease a small facility in nearby Petaluma to make butter and plan to begin making cheese in the future.
“Our European-style butter is all about the butter fat content,” she said. “Most creameries retain 80 percent of butter fat and water. We believe fat equals flavor so our butter contains 85 percent butter fat that results in more creaminess.”
McClelland grew up on the farm and always knew she wanted to return and run the operation. She attended California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and majored in ag business with a concentration in farm and ranch management.
She markets the butter for the dairy operation.
“Our milk and butter are in retail and independently owned stores and 50 different markets that appreciate locally raised products,” she said. “Our customers want to know where food comes from. They support and believe in organic and sustainability, with no hormones or GMOs and that our cows are eating grass.”
They wanted to diversify further so they added free-range chickens that reduce the fly population. The egg yolks are a rich orange hue that consumers crave. They also feed the eggs to calves that are not feeling well.
She also believes in the value of allowing the public to tour the farm.
“Our aim through our farm tours and hands-on cow milking is to educate consumers that are far removed from agriculture,” she said. “I believe that all farmers take extra steps to protect the land for future generations.”
Years in operation: 76
Family members involved: Mother, Dora, and father, George
Number of cows: 1,000