by George Looby
In 1888 a group of Woodstock, CT, farmers decided that the time had come to pool resources and construct a building to be used as a creamery in which to store their milk prior to its being shipped to a processing plant in Worcester, Providence or Hartford. Being a rather innovative group, they decided to call the business the Woodstock Creamery. In that era, almost all milk was transported by rail to these various sites. The refrigeration in the creamery and the rail cars was pretty basic – ice that was harvested in the winter, stored in ice houses and then used for both commercial and household use throughout the year.
Some of the creameries made butter and cheese to meet local demand. With the coming of the automobile and mechanical refrigeration, the need for these small creameries faded away and gradually they became a part of history. Local historians suggest that the Woodstock Creamery was converted into a private home.
Across Child Hill Road, on which the creamery was located, sits Valleyside Farm, which has been operated by members of the Young family for 11 generations, a fact of which the family is duly proud. Historical records reveal that King George III deeded sizable parcels of land to subjects who were loyal to the crown, and so it was in this instance. Members of the Lyon family were deeded a good-sized piece of land, part of which makes up Valleyside Farm today. It was through a series of marriages that the Youngs became the primary owners.
Today, Valleyside Farm is a four-generation operation, with Dexter Young, the senior member of the clan, followed by his son Timothy, who in turn is followed by his son Lucas (Luke). Luke’s son Chase is being groomed for a role in the creamery operation.
For several years the group has been discussing the idea of opening a retail dairy products store on the farm and it seemed to be the right time to do so. Angela Young, Luke’s wife, has assumed a major role in getting this new outlet up and running. This year their youngest daughter will be entering kindergarten, which prompted Angela, the daughter of a dairy farmer, to give up her job as a second grade teacher in the Putnam, CT, school system and devote her energies to the management of the store. It was decided that the product line offered in the start up phase would be somewhat limited in order that the operation have the opportunity to address any defects in the system before they got out of hand. It is anticipated that new products will be added as the operation matures.
Considerable study and research went into the development of this new enterprise. This family group might be well described as cautious and conservative, not given to a lot of self-promotion but certainly willing to take a chance on consumer acceptance. The vagaries of today’s wholesale milk market certainly had an impact on the decision. Today’s consumer is very much in tune with the movement toward home grown, native and local.
Millennials shopping at Valleyside might encounter a product they have not seen before, and that is cream line milk. Almost every container of milk in the supermarket is homogenized, but not here – you can readily see the cream line in the top of the bottle. It then becomes the consumer’s choice to decant it off and use it in their coffee or shake it up to mix it to the consistency at which it came out of the cow.
(Many years ago, when almost all milk was delivered to the consumer’s doorstep, there was a unique bottle which allowed the cream to be captured. The bottle had a large bubble top into which the cream rose. The consumer was supplied with a large spoon with a curved handle that she inserted into the bottle and used to pour off the cream.)
To prepare for her new role, Angela had to take the time to learn the whys and wherefores of basic plant management. She attended a three-day session at Vermont Technical College where she was exposed to the basics of yogurt production. She then traveled to Ithaca, NY, where she was introduced to the details of pasteurization at Cornell. With this volume of information tucked away in her head, she felt more comfortable about tackling the task that lay ahead.
Valleyside Farm is a 220-head Holstein operation with an additional 30 head of Angus-Holstein mixes, which form the basis for the beef herd. The milk produced is shipped to Agrimark, less the amount that will be taken up by the new retail operation. The beef that is being sold is taken to the Adams Farm Slaughter house in Athol, MA.
Establishing a new business used to involve a lot of advertising in the local press prior to opening. Today it seems that social media is an ulterior way to get the word out. Angela has a network of friends with whom she communicates on a regular basis. The news of the opening soon spread well beyond this modest circle as friends told friends. Angela estimated that upwards of 600 people are in the loop and that that number will continue to grow, providing a comfortable customer base.
A 100-gallon pasteurizing vat is the hub of the operation, which pasteurizes at 145° F for 30 minutes.
A semi-automatic bottling machine has the ability to accommodate various sizes of containers. A walk-in cooler stores the bottled or packaged product with glass doors which open into the sales room, allowing customers to select which products they want. In the opposite corner of the sales area is a freestanding freezer which contains a selection of the beef products available.
It is apparent that if ambition and enthusiasm can achieve good results, then the newly resurrected Woodstock Creamery will do well in serving the needs of the community for many years to come.