Word-of-mouth best advertising, dairyman says
By Heather Smith Thomas
For the Capital Press
BUHL, Idaho — Bill Stoltzfus, who operates Cloverleaf Creamery and Dairy, is a transplant from the East Coast.
“We farmed in southeastern Pennsylvania prior to moving to Idaho,” Stoltzfus says.
As the area around him developed, however, he and his family made the decision to move west.
“I wanted to move west and put cows out on pasture,” he says. “We started looking for places in western Washington and Oregon, but ended up in Idaho.”
In 1992, he and his wife bought a 40-acre parcel with a house, and built a dairy barn and corrals.
“I purchased feed locally — corn silage and hay,” he says. “One of the guys who raised hay for me retired and I bought his farm. This gave us more room for our young stock.”
Now they raise all of their own feed and forages.
“When we moved here, buying feed worked, but now with higher feed prices I am glad we are growing our own,” he says.
Bill’s son Eric is in charge of the processing plant, and son-in-law Eric Butterworth helps with the farming.
His wife, Donna, works at the processing plant and is in charge of their store.
The cows are all registered Holsteins. Heifers, dry cows and the milking herd are on a rotational grazing program through the summer, supplemented with a little hay and some corn silage.
“The milking herd gets fresh pasture every day. I like having them on pasture; I think the cows are healthier, and they spread the manure themselves,” Stotzfus says.
For 10 years the dairy supplied milk to a small processing plant in town.
“We purchased that plant in 2007, and now do a full line of cream top whole milk, skim, 2 percent, half-and-half, cream, butter and ice cream,” he says.
The plant is in town on the main highway, with a store front. This is a great location for tourists.
“We have a truck on our milk route five days a week, delivering to stores and restaurants within a 120-mile radius — as far east as Pocatello. We go to Boise and Sun Valley,” Stoltfus says.
“We sell our milk as local, fresh and natural. It’s all processed in returnable glass bottles,” he says. “It’s a niche market, but a good one — a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun.”
Printed on the bottles is an invitation to customers to see where the milk is produced.
“We’ve given hundreds of tours through the creamery and farm to see the cows and feed the calves,” he says.
He doesn’t see the need for traditional advertising.
“I could advertise and tell people to try our milk because it’s the best, but I don’t need to do that,” he says. “When our customers take the tour and see our operation, they tell their friends and family. When a friend says that you need to try a product, it’s more convincing than any advertisement. Word-of-mouth has been our best advertising.”
Customers can be assured that this is a wholesome, healthful product, he says. They are also interested in where their food comes from.
“A program called Idaho Preferred, through the Idaho Department of Agriculture, promotes all Idaho Ag products,” he says. “There’s an Idaho Preferred label on much of our packaging, and this tells people at a glance that it is locally grown.
“People are interested in supporting the local economy — knowing what they are getting and where it’s from,” Stoltzfuz says.
Cloverleaf Creamery and Dairy
Farming: Since 1973, dairying near Buhl, Idaho, since 1992
Family members: Bill Stoltzfus, wife Donna, son Eric and son-in-law Eric Butterworth
Size of farm: 200 acres
Number of milking cows: 90