by Emily Carey
The Danforth Jersey Farm in Jefferson, NY, has over 200 years of experience and tradition that have survived the test of time through seven generations of dairy farmers. The farm, which has been in Shannon Finn’s family since the land was first cleared and settled by her ancestors in 1817, has made its mark on the dairy industry through its bright, golden yellow butter.
In a tumultuous dairy market, the ability to find a niche in the butter business helped to form Cowbella Creamery. In 2009, Finn and her family began to think about how they could turn their dairy farm into more of a value-added business. Butter seemed to be the way to go. Finn and her family found a way to capitalize on the butterfat that their Jersey cows produce. Finn said, “I think if you’re going in the value-added direction, you really have to be a shining example of what dairy is.” The Danforth Jersey Farm and Cowbella certainly live up to that expectation.
Cowbella is working with the Westmeadow Creamery in Johnstown, NY. Being able to use a bigger packing facility that segregates its milk has allowed Cowbella to ensure that their butter is from their cows – an important factor in the marketing and sale of the product throughout New York and the surrounding areas.
“We sell a lot to New York City, regionally, and we have a distributor that even sends some out to LA,” Finn said of Cowbella’s market.
Finn finds it important to work with other local dairies. As they deliver their milk to Johnstown, they also make stops to pick up and deliver milk from other farmers. Finn said, “I would like for Cowbella to buy more milk from more small grazing farms around our area here because Westmeadow does have the capacity to take more… At this point, you know, the demand is definitely there so I think the more milk we buy, the bigger we can make it.”
She mentioned how the farms she works with ideally have mostly Jersey cows that are out on pasture with a majority of their diet coming from grass. Most importantly, the cows have to be having a great life. Finn thinks that “there are definitely a lot of farms that are very interested in working with us because we do pay a premium, but we’re not asking for the burden of some organic paperwork. You don’t have to feed crazy expensive grain.”
The demand for Cowbella butter is there, and Finn is embracing the idea of expanding their reach even further with hopes to move farther across the country in the future.
Entering into the butter market was an easy decision. Finn explained how the family farm was saved in the late 1800s by her great-great-great-grandmother Martha, who began making butter to keep the farm functioning after the sudden death of her husband. Her butter was presented at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Keeping the farm in the family is very important at Danforth Jersey Farm. Not only is the farm in its seventh generation of farmers – the cows on the farm can all be traced back to the original Danforth purebred Jersey bull and heifer pair purchased in 1919.
As the next generation of farmers prepares to take over, Finn said they hope to make their operation more manageable (although the farm has already established a unique way of managing their cows to produce the quality of butter they desire). The 35 milking Jerseys are only milked once a day. After being milked, the cows are turned out to pasture on the farm’s 70 acres. Finn explained that by cutting out grain and not forcing the cows to produce as much at a time, they found that the quantity of milk dropped to about 35 pounds of milk per cow per day, but the butterfat increased to 5.5%.
The butter business is booming and the future of the Danforth Jersey Farm is golden yellow. Learn more at cowbella.com.