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No tea in this parlor

By Staff | Jul 1, 2011

Bruce Meinders STANDs in his fully automated dairy parlor in Buffalo Center. He’s been in the dairy business since June 2009. He overcomes the income losses of the past two years by retailing his own products.

BUFFALO?CENTER – When looking across the flat fertile fields of Kossuth County’s corn and soybean country, a person no longer expects to see livestock, much less a dairy. Especially one that has been in operation only two years.

Meinders’ Farm Fresh Dairy, owned and operated by Bruce and Stacie Meinders, went into operation in 2009.

Bruce Meinders had always been interested in the dairy business and decided two years ago to get into it.

He built a milking parlor and installed a robotic milking system manufactured by Lely. “The first cows were milked with it on June 20, 2009,” said Meinders.

His dairy philosophy reflects both old new. While his cattle are milked robotically, the cattle are free-housed using deep packed bedding.

Dairyman Bruce Meinders explains how his custom vending machines will work once they are distributed through communities aroubnd Buffalo Center where there are no grocery stores.

While not organic, Meinders’ approach to dairying is similar to concepts used by organic producers emphasizing quality and flavor in the milk, butter and ice cream produced by his dairy.

At the time he started, the dairy industry was running at a low in the cycle coming off recent record highs. Bruce Mienders said first sale of his milk was for $9.80 a hundredweight.

Meinders saw that milk was not lower priced in the retail market and that retailers were making record profits while the dairy producers were losing money. It was then he decided to retail his own milk.

By selling his own milk at the retail level, “the goal is to take the price swings out of the market and stabilize income,”?Meinders said. He’s the 10th milk producer in Iowa to retail his own milk.

Meinders scoured much of the United States searching for used equipment to equip his processing plant. Equipment was purchased in Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Idaho.

Michael Dunn was recently hired as plant manager. Dunn is a graduate of the dairy science program of South Dakota State University. He graduated in May and started work for Bruce Meinders two days later. Before being hired full time, he helped on weekends. Dunn’s family had a 400 cow dairy operation at Sturgis, SD.

Meinders’ Farm Fresh Dairy processes its milk two days a week producing milk, butter, and ice cream. Milk is for sale as whole, 2 percent, 1 percent and skim.

Ice cream is available in vanilla and strawberry using natural flavors. Meinders said he’s close to offering chocolate ice cream and chocolate milk.

Being a milk producer and a milk retailer requires two completely different hats, Meinders said.

He’s working on retailing his milk locally, especially in towns where there is neither a grocery store nor a convenience store.

To achieve this, Meinders has had seven vending machines built specifically for the sale of his dairy’s products. After searching vending machine manufacturers, he found one in California that would build a machine to vend dairy products.

Six of the machines are now in Meinders’ garage waiting to be installed in area towns once a location is picked. One vending machine remained in California to serve as a reference when any machines need troubleshooting.

There are two screens on the vending machines. The top one shows scenes from Meinders’ farm with photos of the cattle, dairy facility and the Meinders family.

Customers make their purchases through a series of choices on the lower touch screen.

The vending machines hold 50 half-gallon containers of milk and need to be in an inside location that is accessible 24 hours a day. The only requirement is a 20 amp 110 volt circuit to power them.

The vending machines can access the Internet through their own built in wi-fi. With Internet accessibility, the machines can take credit cards as payment and contact the Meinders’ dairy office near Buffalo Center to alert when a machine is running low on inventory or needs servicing.

Meinders said he is meeting with community leaders or any business that would be willing to host one of his vending machines as a service to the community.

More vending machines will be shipped from the manufacturer as the vending business grows. He sees a radius in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota of 60 miles from his dairy farm as a target area for his vending machines.

Meinders Farm Fresh Dairy milk can be purchased at grocery stores in Titonka, Buffalo Center, Thompson, and Algona and some area convenience stores.

The first communities to receive the vending machines will be Rake, Lakota, Woden, Leland, Fenton, Lone Rock and Ringsted, he said.

With a 60-cow milking herd and a federally inspected processing plant, Meinders’ Farm Fresh Dairy has room for expansion.

Meinders is looking to use his excess processing capacity for other dairy farms wanting to retail their own milk.

Meinder’s farm is a Century Farm of 600 acres. Bruce and Stacie are parents to Ava, 3, and Ben, 1 month.

Meinders’ Farm Fresh Dairy can be found on Facebook where there is more information about the dairy, farm and contact information.

Contact Clayton Rye at crye@wctatel.net.

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