Nov 1, 2018
Stap Dairy has been milking cows for over 13 years in the bucolic fields of Orange County’s pastures, where they recently launched two new whole milk products to the retail market.
Stap Dairy has been milking cows for over 13 years in the bucolic fields of Orange County’s pastures, where they recently launched two new whole milk products to the retail market. Stacey and Bob Stap were both born and raised on Orange County family dairy farms in neighboring communities in a vastly different landscape than today’s. They learned dairy farming in a time before global forces began to upend the whole industry—from Walmart bottling its own milk, China’s milk production and then a notable shift in overall demand as Americans move away from drinking milk and towards nondairy options, such as almond or coconut milk.
The couple farmed on Bob’s family’s dairy farm until they bought the current land in Montgomery, where they moved with 80 milking cows plus some young stock. Despite the changing trends, the Staps managed to add more cows and are now milking up to 110 cows with 100 young stock as well. One day, however, they lost their wholesale market. Stacey said it was terrifying—causing the couple to reevaluate the entire business. Though at the eleventh hour they were able to connect with another wholesale market, they realized they needed to do more to survive.
The Staps participated in HVADC’s Incubator Without Walls program which connected them first to a business planner, Brian Zweig, and then with Dennis Moore, a professional New York State Dairy consultant— and a retired NY Dairy Inspector. Drawing on more than 40 years of field experience, Moore urged the Staps to create new lines of revenue from their own product known as “value-added,” which meant for the Staps’ bottling their own milk and selling it at a retail price, rather than wholesale. By June 2017, they were working on designing, licensing, bottling and filling. The couple soon built a processing room and purchased a vat processor and a bottle stiller capper.
“Dennis Moore is a wealth of information,” said Stacey. “We could ask how to do things and he gave us a lot of direction. He connected us with a lot of people. We got to talk to a lot of different companies and people and make decisions, rather than sitting on computer and looking up stuff. My husband said we may not have been doing anything yet if it wasn’t for the information he has available.”
Stap is now milking 12 cows to bottle 35-40 gallons week of cream line white and chocolate pasteurized milk products-- alternating every other day between each and selling it to the general public—either at their farm’s storefront, Pine Bush farmers market, or Stacey’s cousins’ farm, Hoeffner Farms in Montgomery. They have been bottling for less than five months, and are letting it grow slowly, Stacey explained, as their son has begun to be involved, and their other kids are helping out with social media.
Stap Dairy uses a chocolate recipe suggested by Moore himself. “It’s a great thing for them and Orange county, it’s nice that local people can drive to the farm and get fresh milk,” said Moore. “It’s a whole-fat chocolate milk using a good quality cocoa, a lot of the chocolate milks today are budget; rather than using cane sugar, they are using corn sweeteners. Stacy said the new milk products are doing very well on the market. “We have talked about the possibility of maybe a drinkable yogurt or cheese curds,” she added, about what’s next for the dairy farm. The couple plans to do some possible exploring and site visits to learn more about operations on other dairy farms and manufacturers over the winter.
This month, Stap Dairy hosted Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Orange County’s 31rst “Open House on the Farm” day at their farm. The event was a success drawing over 500 attendees, despite morning rain storms. The purpose of the event this year was to showcase daily operations on dairy farms, the New York State Dairy Princess handed out cheese, CCE Master Gardener Volunteers had displays, 4H and other farmer friends brought rabbits, chickens and goats and other area dairy farmers offered tourists educational farm tours to talk about the daily operations on a dairy farm in twenty-first century.
“HVADC has a nice thing; consultants from many different facets, consultants for wine, beer, everything for food industry, including the business end of it,” said Moore.
“The Stap family is an outstanding example of farmers who saw a viable niche market with their locally bottled milk and took steps to capitalize on it,” said Mary Ann Johnson, Deputy Director of HVADC. “We work with other farmers who have taken on the challenge of doing a value-added product to diversify income on the farm and have experienced the benefits. We look forward to the continued success of the Staps.”
For more information about HVADC Incubator Without Walls services, visit https://www.hvadc.org/incubator-without-walls
Photo source: Stap Dairy