Jerald Reinford makes his dreams come true.
Five years ago, he bought 103 acres in Russell, MA with the dream of making it a farm and offering the goods at a farm store.
“I grew up on a farm. I have a furniture and kitchen business, and was looking for more of a family venture. Farming is in my blood,” he said. Reinford now divides his time between his successful business (Countryside Woodcraft, which employs 14 people and makes high-end furniture out of hardwoods, mainly cherry), and Cream of the Crop Farm. This arrangement allows Reinford to be more available for his seven children, ages 2 to 15, and his wife, Priscilla.
“I wanted to teach them responsibility and how to work,” he said. They also have a lot fun, riding their bikes by the cows along the paths on eight acres that have been cleared.
He is in partnership with Steve Leinbach, who lives four miles away with his family. Reinford owns the property and buildings, and handles marketing. Leinbach runs the animal end of things. Leinbach’s brother Rueben, a carpenter, built the eight-stall milking barn.
Reinford had a few family cows over the years, starting with miniature Jerseys. “More like the original Jersey, they’re great for family cows, and don’t eat as much.” Working with them, he decided to sell raw milk at his farm. When their farm store opened on June 23, he had five cows. “We kept running out of milk. As demand increased, we had to find more cows.”
Now there are 17 milking cows each producing, 3 to 4 gallons daily on average. Customers far exceed expectations. “There’s 25 on a slow day, 100 on a busy day. Saturdays tend to be busiest.”
Before, people drove 45 to 60 minutes to buy raw milk. Now they buy it in glass or plastic containers at the Cream of the Crop store, which is complete with a lending library with books on root cellaring, farming and the benefits of raw milk. “When milk is pasteurized, it kills some enzymes that make it easy to digest. Most lactose-intolerant people can drink this milk and do very well on it,” said Reinford.
Customers can also purchase pork from their Tamworth pigs and grass-fed Black Angus beef raised at the farm, as well as wild blueberry jam, apple pie filling, apple juice, zucchini relish, local honey and syrup, and veal from a nearby farmer, Olan Martin. They can also borrow one of 10 butter churns from the lending library to make their own butter.
He offers several incentives for people to buy milk in bulk.
His initial marketing strategy included, “Basically just advertising. [We] just gave away a lot of milk, a half-gallon or gallon for people to try to see if they liked it.” They did.
Reinford held a contest to name the farm. “I wanted the perfect name.” The winner would receive $500 store credit. He received 220 e-mail entries from around the country, Mexico, Canada and the neighborhood. Everyone voted on the entries, weeding it down to 12. The winner, “Cream of the Crop” was entered by the children’s schoolteacher, Lori Mast, who is now their creamery manager.
Reinford never stops learning. “There are 25 farms in the state certified to sell raw milk. I visited other farms and got some ideas,” and attended seminars. He just installed a hydroponic fodder system from South Windsor CT-based FarmTek, growing bright green barley sprouts on flats shaped like a front door’s welcome mat under a series of long T5 light bulbs in a room kept warm year round. “It’s really high in vitamins, Omega-3 fats, very digestible. With dry hay, only 35 percent of vitamins are in the hay,” he said. “Any barley has the most health benefits. Pigs love it, chickens love it, cows love it.” With a new batch every seven days, he plans to have it provide two-thirds of the cows’ diet.
Reinford awaits inspection on a newly installed 99-gallon cheese vat by MicroDairy Design, based in Smithsburg, MD. Their milking barn is equipped with a Milkplan 85 gallon bulk tank from Bob-White Systems, based in Royalston, VT. They use bucket milkers. Considering their raw milk demand, they’re thinking about putting a pipeline in. “I’ve been surprised how much interest there is. People can come see for themselves.”
And they do.