It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we are posting a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. For our final week, we are featuring our rich, creamy butter.
When we opened our on-farm creamery in 2004, we only produced whole milk. We soon realized there was customer demand for skim milk. When removing the butterfat to make low- and non-fat milks, that leaves a lot of cream left over. So beginning in 2005, we decided to utilize that cream for making butter and ice cream.
Butter is super simple to make. In fact, it’s one of the things that visitors on our hands-on tours get to do, and they are always pleasantly surprised at how tasty it is on crackers. I think it’s so good, it’s like frosting — and some of the younger kids must agree with me, because many of them skip the crackers and eat it right out of the jar!
In our creamery, we make what’s called “sweet cream” butter. That means it’s produced from fresh sweet cream, as opposed to butter made from cultured or sour cream.
Our salted butter contains only two ingredients: cream and salt. We also make unsalted butter, for those using butter when baking. However, unsalted butter is only available frozen, because salt is a preservative — and without it, the butter will spoil faster.
To make butter, one hundred gallons of pasteurized cream are put in the butter churn and rotated. Butter is formed simply by the agitation of the churn.
After 1 to 2 hours, the buttermilk is drained, revealing 330 pounds of rich, creamy butter. If salted butter is being made, salt is then added to the churn and mixed thoroughly.
Finally, the butter is carried to the filling station and is hand-packaged into 1 pound and 4 pound containers.
Hansen’s butter is higher in fat content and lower in milk solids, which makes it a higher quality butter. The proof is in the deep yellow, all-natural color. No dyes are added to get that bright golden yellow— it’s naturally colored due to beta carotene in a cow’s diet, and the color may vary from pale yellow to bright yellow throughout the year.
Our butter is the perfect addition to fresh bread, pancakes, waffles, baked potatoes, muffins, pastries, homemade cookies, quick breads … are you hungry yet? 🙂
We hope you’ve enjoyed our How It’s Made series. Check out our other posts:
It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. This week we are featuring our old-fashioned, premium ice cream.
When we opened our on-farm creamery in 2004, we only produced whole milk. We soon realized there was customer demand for skim milk. When removing the butterfat to make low- and non-fat milks, that leaves a lot of cream left over. So beginning in 2005, we decided to utilize that cream in the best way — to make ice cream!
At first, dairy experts discouraged us from making ice cream with our non-homogenized milk, saying it wouldn’t be smooth and creamy. (Side note: Homogenization breaks down the fat particles in milk so it no longer separates as it sits. Our milk is non-homogenized because we wanted to keep the milk in a more natural state, and not put it through more processing.)
However, through our own trial and error, we did develop a technique resulting in a premium, old-fashioned, homemade-type ice cream. And people have loved it ever since! Our ice cream has a high fat content and very little air pumped into it (aeration), creating a denser texture that freezes harder. It has a cold, clean mouth-feel as opposed to a creamy mouth-feel.
We now make ice cream in over 20 flavors, which we sell at our own retail stores in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, along with other local restaurants, grocery stores and concession stands. Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (Moo Roo) sells our ice cream in cones, shakes, malts and sundaes, along with ice cream cakes.
The list below includes flavors we make consistently year-round, unless marked seasonally. We also make limited-time micro-batches for the ice cream dip cabinet at Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (here’s looking at you, Cookie Monster lovers!).
Candy Cane (winter)
Chip & Cherry
Cookies & Cream
Key Lime Pie (summer)
Lemon Squeeze (summer)
Mint Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter Yum
Pumpkin Pie (winter)
To make the ice cream, we have to mix the base ingredients first. All flavors of Hansen’s ice cream include skim milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, locust bean gum, guar gum and dextrose. Cocoa powder is added to make chocolate ice cream. We also make No-Sugar-Added Vanilla, which is sweetened with maltitol. Other flavorings, colorings and candy pieces are added to individual flavors later in the process.
Occasionally people ask about the inclusion of stabilizer ingredients like locust bean gum and guar gum. Locust bean gum is a natural food additive that comes from the carob seeds of the carob tree. It is used as a stabilizing agent in ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming during temperature fluctuations. (So when you leave your ice cream tub on the counter a little too long after scooping out your after-dinner dessert, it helps prevent icy chunks from forming when it goes back in your freezer.) Guar gum helps thicken and maintain homogeneity of texture. It keeps thinner ingredients combined uniformly with thicker ingredients.
After the base ingredients are added, the mixture is pasteurized, and the heat from the pasteurization helps create a uniform mix. The mix is aged for 12 hours.
The mix is then put in the batch freezer machine. This is where each batch is hand-crafted with the individual flavorings and chilled to 22 degrees. The ice cream has the consistency of a milkshake after removal from the batch freezer.
We then individually fill (that’s right, no automation here!) each of our containers: half-gallons, pints and half-pints. To complete the process, the ice cream must be placed in the flash freezer to be quickly frozen to -30 degrees. Then it’s distributed to you!
Check out the other blogs in the How It’s Made series:
It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. This week we are featuring our genuine, nutritious and delicious milk!
In February of this year, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of processing our own milk on the farm. We have been so blessed to live in an area where the community supports us local food producers. With the low milk prices of the dairy industry today, many small dairy farmers are going out of business. We are fortunate that we have been able to support five owner families and employ another 25 people while living this dream of ours.
We currently milk about 130 purebred Holsteins twice a day. Our cows are born and raised on our farm and are never treated with growth hormones. The milk is processed three times a week and distributed to dozens of places in Eastern Iowa.
Here are a few things that make our milk different from many other brands of milk on the shelf:
Hansen’s Dairy produces creamline (non-homogenized) milk, so the cream rises to the top. Homogenization breaks up the fat globules of milk so that the particles are uniformly sized and won’t separate. Since Hansen’s milk is non-homogenized, that means that the cream rises to the top. It should be shaken before being served. Unlike pasteurization (heating the milk to kill bacteria), homogenization is not required to sell milk. We choose not to homogenize to keep the milk in its most natural state. Some people who have trouble digesting milk have told us that they don’t have a problem with our milk, which we attribute to the non-homogenization. If that’s you, maybe you should give it a try!
Our milk is extremely fresh. The milk a cow gives on the morning of a processing day is pasteurized, delivered to our retail stores, and could be bought and served at your table that night.
Our milk is “single source,” which means it comes only from our closed herd of cows. At larger processing plants, many different farms’ milk is being blended together. You can tour our farm and see exactly where the cows live, what they eat and how they are milked. And then you know exactly what goes into the jug!
So how is it processed?
Check out the video below for actual footage of processing milk in our creamery.
We process whole, 1% and skim milk into gallons and half-gallons three times each week.
The first step in the process is to send the milk through the cream separator, which clarifies the milk and also removes some of the fat.
The cream that is collected from the separator is later packaged as heavy whipping cream in quarts and gallons or used to make our butter and ice cream.
The next step is to pasteurize the milk. This process heats the milk to at least 165 degrees for 15 seconds to eliminate any bacteria.
After being pasteurized, the milk is ready to be bottled. Labels are placed on the empty jugs. The jugs travel on the conveyor belt to the carousel where milk fills the jug. Another machine stamps the sell-by date on the jug.
The cap is then put in place and sealed. The full jug travels down the conveyor belt and into the cooler. There the milk will be stacked in crates and put on the delivery truck. Hansen’s milk is delivered to our own retail stores and other grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, daycares and retirement homes in Eastern Iowa.
Enjoy your Hansen’s milk, and remember to shake well before serving!
It’s June Dairy Month, and here at Hansen’s Dairy, we are celebrating all of our fresh dairy products! Each week in June we will post a new segment in our “How It’s Made” series. The first product we are featuring is our squeaky, delicious cheese curds.
Check out the video below for actual footage of the creamery cheese curd process.
Curds are a popular product made here at Hansen’s Dairy. Cheese curds are just the first step in the process of making aged cheese. People rave about eating curds on the day they are made, even when they are still a little warm. The mark of a fresh cheese curd is when it squeaks in your mouth!
Hansen’s Dairy makes several flavors of mild white cheddar cheese curds, including plain, spicy red pepper, dill, bacon, buffalo and ranch.
To start the cheesemaking process, 300 gallons of whole milk are added to the cheese curd vat and heated to 90 degrees. When the tank is full, the culture is added, which gives the cheese the mild cheddar flavor.
Hansen’s curds are white because no dye is used to color them yellow.
Later, vegetable rennet is added to thicken the mixture and begin the separation process. Soon curds and whey will begin to form, and the cheese is raked to a mixture resembling cottage cheese.
After more agitating and heating, the curds become more solid. The curds are pushed and pressed to drain out as much whey as possible.
The cheese is then cut and formed into large slabs. The slabs are repeatedly cut and stacked on top of each other to squeeze additional whey out of the curds below. This process is called cheddaring.
The slabs go through a mill to be cut into chunks. Salt is added and mixed thoroughly. Finally, the curds are ready to be packaged.
Cheese curds are typically made twice weekly in our on-farm creamery, on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Fresh curds can be kept at room temperature for a few hours (although food inspectors might disagree). The squeak can be revived in refrigerated curds by heating on a microwave-safe plate for 10-15 seconds. Curds can be frozen in a deep freezer.
Hansen’s curds are available in 12-ounce bags and 4-pound bags. Many restaurants serve up our cheese curds as appetizers, including Doughy Joey’s, Pump Haus, Gilmore’s Pub, Table 1912 and La Calle in Cedar Falls; Highway 63 Diner, Locals Bar & Grill, SingleSpeed and Newton’s Paradise Cafe in Waterloo; East Bremer Diner in Waverly; Finley’s Curbside Bistro in Ames; Ice Cream Junction in Oelwein; and Todd’s Neighborhood Grill in Parkersburg.
Hope you enjoyed learning about our cheese curds … next week we will show you how the milk is made!
We want to thank everyone who submitted names for our triplets!
This was a tough decision to make, because there were a lot of good names suggested, but we had to make sure we hadn’t used any of the names in our herd before. We have had literally hundreds of L cows throughout our existence, so this was a challenge!
The most frequently suggested names that we loved were:
Live, Laugh, Love
Lavender, Lilac, Lily
Lollipop, Lemon Drop, Laffy Taffy / Life Saver
Unfortunately, most of these names had already been used. So we decided on a more unique set of names that played upon a well-known phrase …
Livalot, Lafalot, and Luvalot!
Mama and babies are all doing well, and are loving the attention they are getting. Check out how rambunctious they are in this video from The Courier, along with their story:
One of our Holstein cows, aptly named Legend, gave birth to triplet heifers on May 17.(Photo courtesy Ellen Kaminsky)
Hansen’s Dairy farm made history on Friday, May 17, 2019. You might even call the event “Legendairy.”
A cow on our farm gave birth to TRIPLETS! They are all alive, and they are all heifers. Experts say the odds of a cow having surviving triplets are about 1 in 400,000 births. Add in the fact that they are all girls — which is what we dairy farmers want, since only females give milk — and the odds go up exponentially.
The triplet heifers at Hansen’s Dairy farm are all thriving.
A cow’s gestational period is 40 weeks, just like humans. In the last 20 years, we have only had two other cows pregnant with triplets, and neither set was carried for longer than five months before miscarriage.
The cow who gave birth to these lucky girls is named Legend. And now, she certainly lives up to her name.
Herd manager Blake Hansen knew that Legend was going to have twins. She happened to deliver right at the time when a tour group was visiting the farm, so two of the tourists got a true “hands-on” experience and helped deliver the first two calves!
Blake was surprised when Legend delivered these two big, beautiful heifer calves, but still looked pretty round. That’s when he realized there was a third one on the way.
The calves weighed in at 85, 85 and 80 pounds. That’s 250 pounds of baby that Legend carried for 39 weeks — just one week shy of full term! They all came out facing the proper direction, which is even more amazing. And Legend is doing well, successfully passing all the afterbirth naturally.
The sire of these triplets, or father, is also unique. His name is Glory-Road M Apple Crisp-ET, and he is the first bull that Blake Hansen has bred that was sent to stud, or a semen company. Having a bull that is desired by semen companies so that other dairy farmers may purchase his semen is a rare accomplishment, especially from a small farm like ours.
Legend herself is the daughter of a twin, who was named Lois. Legend is 5 years old, turning 6 in July, so she has given birth to four calves in her lifetime. She’s already produced over 100,000 pounds of milk in four lactations. For those in the dairy industry, she classified at 5-00 EX-90 VEEVE.
Now, these babies need names. We always use the same initial as the mother to name the calves, and we try to give each calf a name that has never been used on our farm before. This is a challenge, because we have dozens of L cows already!
Other “L” sets of twins we’ve named include:
Longitude and Latitude
Luke and Leia
Lois and Lane
LaLa and Loopsy
Lego and Land
So, we need your help. Give us your best triplet names — remember, all beginning with L! Having a theme to the three names is even better!
Hansen’s Dairy has a long-standing relationship with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Now, with the help of the Farm Bureau, Fareway grocery stores, and customers like you, our partnership is about to grow.
Black Hawk County Farm Bureau board members Brad Jesse and Len Orth spearheaded an initiative to increase donations of milk to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and improve demand of dairy farmers’ products.
The initiative, called #MilkMonday, will begin on Monday, April 1, and run every Monday through June (National Dairy Month). Fareway grocery shoppers will have the opportunity to round up their total purchase to the nearest dollar to help provide milk to the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Hansen’s Dairy shoppers can also round up their purchase, or they can decide to purchase an extra gallon that will go directly to the Food Bank.
The NEIA Food Bank is located in Waterloo, and serves as a hub for food programs and pantries in a 16-county area: Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Delaware, Fayette, Floyd, Grundy, Hardin, Howard, Mitchell, Poweshiek, Tama and Winneshiek.
All Fareway stores in the 16-county region will be participating. Waterloo Fareway Manager Allen Weimerskirch also reported that the Fareway corporation has decided to match up to the first $2,500 raised in the initiative.
The #MilkMonday program will allow the Food Bank to purchase more milk from our farm, which is already supplying the Food Bank with about 50,000 gallons of milk each year through a combination of sales and donations.
Our relationship with the Food Bank is mutually beneficial, and we see it as an important way to give back to our community.
First, a little background into how it all started.
You need it, we’ve got it
When cows are milked, they naturally produce what’s called “whole” milk. The fat percentage of our whole milk is about 3.5%. The milk can be run through a separator to produce two different products: skim milk, which is our biggest seller; and heavy cream, which is bottled itself and also used to make butter and ice cream. For every 10 gallons of whole milk, it will separate into 1 gallon of cream and 9 gallons of skim milk.
For several years now, the supply and demand of cream and skim coming from our farm has been a little out of balance. We need that cream to make those high-demand (yummy) products, but we’re just left with way too much skim milk than what our customers demand. Sometimes, in order to have enough cream, that skim milk would literally go down the drain.
Enter the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and Barb Prather, executive director, who just happens to live in our town.
“Milk is one of the harder items for us to keep in stock for the people we serve,” Barb said. “And it’s such an important part of daily nutrition, giving young kids as well as adults the essential vitamins and calcium they need.”
We agree. So in July 2016, we formulated a plan where the Food Bank would purchase skim milk from us at a reduced rate, and we would donate more gallons on top of that. We are at about a 3:2 ratio — for every three gallons of milk the Food Bank buys, we donate two gallons. In 2018, we donated nearly 19,000 gallons of skim milk.
This has benefited both of our organizations in several ways:
We avoid dumping perfectly good milk down the drain.
The Food Bank receives extremely fresh milk — sometimes just bottled at our farm that day — instead of getting close-to-expiration milk that may be cast off from grocery stores.
We get paid for most of the milk, while also donating some and taking advantage of the state of Iowa’s Farm to Food Tax Credit.
Our delivery team can efficiently drop a lot of milk at one location.
The Food Bank has distribution points to share the milk across Northeast Iowa.
We salute the Farm Bureau members to spearhead this effort to benefit us dairy farmers while getting nutritious food to those who need it.
“As farmers, we have a calling to help feed people and take care of those in our communities,” said Ben Bader, Black Hawk County Farm Bureau president. “And you don’t have to be a farmer to realize being able to pull the whole community together to provide milk to families in need is part of the ‘farm strong’ spirit we all embrace.”
To help bring awareness to the event, grocery shoppers are encouraged to spread the word using #MilkMonday on social media.
Have you heard the buzz about our newest product on the farm? It’s actually not a dairy product.
Our newest venture is in Wagyu-Holstein beef. That’s kind of a mouthful —literally!
Wagyu, a breed of Japanese beef cattle, may not be a familiar term to most people. But it’s actually the breed behind the famous Kobe beef that you see on restaurant menus.
Real Kobe beef actually comes from the Tajima bloodline of Japanese Black Wagyu cattle, and it must be raised, fed and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan. Many U.S. restaurants may put “Kobe” beef on the menu, but in truth, only a handful are certified to serve it (check out this article from Business Insider for more on that topic).
Highly desirable beef
So what’s so great about it? Wagyu (pronounced “wahg-you”) is widely regarded as highly desirable beef due to:
Superior marbling, shown in raw meat as tiny white dots or a spider web of ultra-thin veins throughout the muscle, which results in tender texture
Rich, buttery flavor
Healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids — especially oleic acid, which is responsible for flavor. These monounsaturated fats have a lower melting point, below human body temperature, so they literally melt in your mouth. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Starting a Wagyu herd
Blake Hansen, Hansen’s Dairy co-owner and herd manager, first heard about Wagyu beef about four years ago from family friends in Des Moines. They were raising a few head just to feed to their own family, and one taste-test had Blake hooked.
This family raised both full-blood cows (mother and father are both Wagyu) and Jersey crossbreeds (Jersey mother and Wagyu father). That got Blake thinking about crossing Wagyus with his Holsteins and offering a very nice selection of meat to customers who already knew us by our dairy products. Blake actually preferred the taste of the crossbreed to the full-blood. Because it wasn’t as rich, he could eat more of it. 😉
The first step was finding the semen. Our dairy cows are artificially inseminated so that we don’t have to keep live bulls on the farm. This provides a lot of genetic variety without having to house and feed bulls and worry about their temper. So to have a crossbred Wagyu-Holstein, we would breed a Holstein female with Wagyu semen.
Blake discovered that Wagyu cattle are typically butchered at 27-29 months old, as they gain the most marbling after 24 months. This is in contrast to more well-known breeds of beef cattle raised in Iowa, which are usually butchered at around 14-16 months.
So this is where things got hard to predict. How much demand would there be for this new beef? When you add up the time it takes for a cow to become pregnant, carry the calf for 9 months, and then raise the calf to 28 months of age, that’s more than three years. And he had to choose how many cows to breed to this Wagyu semen, and how often, because a pregnancy is never guaranteed. In the end, he decided to aim for one or two cows to be butchered each month.
Just like our dairy cows, the Wagyu-Holsteins are raised with great care and quality feed throughout their lives. They are housed in the same pens and fed the same diet as the dairy cows. We do not use growth hormones or preventive antibiotics, and we grow the majority of their feed — corn silage and alfalfa hay silage — on our own land. The genetic traits of Wagyu cattle just naturally result in better meat quality even on the same diet as a dairy cow.
Our first Wagyu-Holstein cow went to the meat locker (we use Marks Locker in Rowley, Iowa) in August 2018. We developed a great partnership with the new restaurant Table 1912, located in the Jorgensen Plaza development of the Western Home in Cedar Falls, to feature this beef on their menu. The Western Home Communities have purchased our dairy products for almost as long as we’ve been producing them, and their restaurant concept is focused on farm-to-table fine dining. They source many of their ingredients from Iowa farmers, so they were excited to be the exclusive server of this new local beef.
We also began selling the meat cuts privately to individuals. A Waterloo Courier article about our beef garnered national attention, as it was picked up by the Associated Press and published in more than 40 newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald (Fla.), US News & World Report, Washington Times (D.C.) and Houston Chronicle (Texas). Not bad for a small-town Iowa farm.
Try some for yourself
Is your mouth watering yet? Here are some things to know when preparing it:
Small serving sizes. Wagyu is very tender and has a buttery flavor. Steak serving sizes are typically smaller because of the rich flavor profile.
Faster cooking time. Wagyu cooks faster than other beef. It is recommended that steaks are cooked to no more than medium rare for optimum palatability.
Juicy hamburger. Wagyu-Holstein beef is about 90% lean.
We sell our Wagyu-Holstein hamburger in bulk and patties at our Waterloo and Cedar Falls stores for $8/pound. We don’t sell the finer cuts of meat in our stores because of limited quantities and higher price point. If you are interested in purchasing prime cuts of our Wagyu-Holstein beef, call Blake Hansen at (319) 610-1530. As of this post, there are several cuts available, including roasts, short ribs, top sirloins, New York strips, ribeyes and filets, ranging in price from $16 to $100 per pound.
As the calendar turns from April to May, families naturally seek out activities to do outside. Maybe one of those activities is touring Hansen’s Dairy farm?
We aim to make your tour a fun, educational and possibly surprising experience. Here are 5 things you need to know before your visit.
The hands-on tour is the best (if we may brag).
The best tour experience we offer is our hands-on tour. This guided tour takes you through the process of getting milk from the cow to your table. You’ll take a trolley ride around the farm, then take a walking tour to see all the cows and the facilities up close. Along the way, you’ll get to feed a calf, milk a cow by hand, and pet the kangaroos and goats. Then we’ll hop on the trolley to go back to the Tour Center, where you’ll make and eat your own butter, sample milk and cheese curds, and get your own serving of ice cream. Children 3 and younger are free; all other participants are $12. Tours begin at 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and you must have a reservation. Tours start at 3:30 because of the cows’ schedule — that’s when they’re being milked and the calves are being fed. This tour will take about 2 hours.
We always make tours by appointment, so dropping in is not recommended. Also, if you can’t make your reservation, please let us know not to expect you. There likely are other groups scheduled at the same time, so we like to avoid making the whole tour wait.
By the way, the hands-on tour is not just fun for kids. Adults will have a blast too, I promise!
Call 319-988-9834 to make your reservation.
2. Bring cash or check.
At this time we don’t take debit or credit cards for payment of tours or products. You may want to bring some extra spending money in case you would like to buy products after the tour. We do a good job of teasing your taste buds, just sayin’!
3. Don’t bring a stroller unless it’s an “off-road” or jogging-type stroller.
The farm is mostly gravel and has few concrete areas where it’s smooth to push a stroller. Trying to navigate with an umbrella stroller or travel-system stroller can be very difficult. Either plan to carry the little ones or use a baby carrier. We also have a nice jogging stroller for your use if you would like it, no charge.
4. Don’t dress as if you’re going to a party or a concert.
This is a working farm. The ground may be muddy, the wind might be blowing feed around, a calf could slobber on you, you’ll see cows “relieving” themselves … you get the idea. Dress in old shoes or boots and clothes that can get dirty. I’ve seen open-toed heels, flip-flops, white pants and the like. That’s a recipe for disaster! While we do take a trolley ride to the farm, most of the tour is by foot so you need to be comfortable walking.
By the end of the tour, you will most likely be smelly, too. You may not want to plan to go out to eat afterward if you don’t want to offend other restaurant patrons. Besides, we’ll feed you so many dairy products at the end of the tour, we’ll probably ruin your supper. 🙂
5. (Over)dress for the weather.
The weather can be unpredictable. We generally don’t cancel our tours because of weather; we let the tourists decide if they want to brave the rain, wind or snow. However, if you decide to come, know this: a farm is more extreme than the city! If it’s windy in town, it’s twice as bad in the wide open country. We tell people to overdress in the spring and fall because it’s much nicer to have a hat and gloves, even in May, than be cold and uncomfortable. Especially for kids! Remember that about half of the tour is outside, and the trolley has a covered top but open-air sides.
Above all, we want you to have a great experience at the farm. These tips should help you make the best of your trip. Hope to see you soon!
Did you notice our business went through some changes this year?
We’ve changed our logo and retail store names, with the customer in mind. If you wondered why, I’d like to share.
First, a little background about our farm.
Our farm has been in the family for 152 years, since 1864. For most of that time, our ancestors operated a self-sustaining farm with many different animals and crops. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the farm started specializing in dairy.
In 1975, Jay and Jeanne Hansen began raising their four sons, Brent, Brad, Blair, and Blake, and their daughter, Lynn, on the farm. As the children grew up, Mom and Dad encouraged them to explore other paths besides working on the home farm. They never wanted them to feel like working on the farm had to be their lot in life. Career options among the siblings included cow hoof trimming, teaching, and yes, even managing cows on other dairy farms.
But in 2000, Jay and Jeanne began to discuss the idea of retirement. The days get long and the bodies get tired. If no one was going to carry on the dairy tradition, the cows could be sold.
But the sons didn’t want to see that happen. The idea of opening an on-farm creamery was tossed around to add value to the milk; if successful, the family could capture more of their hard-earned profits, instead of shipping it off to the middlemen in the dairy supply chain. They could also support the five families on nearly the same number of cows. Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy was born.
The creamery opened in February 2004. Jay and Jeanne mortgaged their retirement on this venture, and each brother had his own responsibilities to make it go. Blake, my husband and the youngest brother, would care for the dairy cow herd; Blair would manage the cropland and livestock nutrition; Brad would operate the creamery; and Brent would deliver the products to area grocery stores, eateries and care facilities.
In 2006, the family decided to open their first retail store: Moo Roo in Waterloo. The logo had always been a kangaroo, as Blake loved the marsupials he saw on a trip to Australia and wanted to have them as pets. With several wallabies (miniature kangaroos) on the farm, it was an obvious choice for a product logo that would stand out on the shelf. The new store name reflected the combination of cows and kangaroos on our farm.
With the success of that store, we thought another store in Cedar Falls would open more eyes to our local product. However, Moo Roo had a hard-dip ice cream parlor, in addition to selling our products and other local goods. The Cedar Falls store was thought to be sort of temporary, a place to sell surplus milk that we had due to our milk staying at a fixed price while other dairy prices were on the rise. We hoped consumers would try our milk for the price and be hooked on the taste and local aspect. So, our Cedar Falls store was named Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy Outlet so people would know it was not exactly the same footprint as the Waterloo store.
Fast forward to 2014. Business at both stores was good; the Outlet was no longer temporary but an important fixture in our overall business plan. Another opportunity arose — buying the building in which our Outlet was located, along with a gas station and Chinese restaurant. Since we loved our location, we decided it was a good choice.
Along with the building, it meant we became owners of the gas station. Sell gas? Sure, we could sell gas. It’s a staple, just like milk. (We’ve already heard the one about how Hansen’s Dairy gives you gas, heehee.)
But this year, we decided to leave the Conoco name behind. Hansen’s was already well-known in the community, so we didn’t need the benefit of the name recognition provided by a large corporation. And by cutting ties with Conoco, more of the customers’ dollars would stay in the local community.
Meanwhile, someone in the marketing department here (ahem) had been thinking about our logo. It was 10 years old; the colors were drab, it had a lot of words and a complicated kangaroo/cow-in-her-pouch image. With growth comes the opportunity for a fresh start.
Mike Tyer of Cohesive Creative and Code in Hudson (a fellow graduate of mine at Wartburg in 2003) designed several new possibilities for us. In the end we went with a logo reminiscent of old-time milk bottle caps; I loved the feeling of a wholesome, simpler time. The kangaroo remains, but there is no cow in the pouch. We hope by now that people know the milk comes from the cows, not from the kangaroos. Just like a duck and a gecko can advertise insurance, and a tiger can advertise frosted cereal, a kangaroo can sell milk. We removed the words “farm fresh” (even though you know it still is) and more prominently featured our name.
Now for the retail stores. The name Moo Roo is, of course, cute and clever. But I was beginning to wonder: Do people on the street know that the store is more than just an ice cream parlor? That it primarily sells Hansen’s Dairy products, made just down the road? And that there are all kinds of local meats, cheeses, produce, snacks, locally crafted gift items and more available here?
The idea of having a new logo was met with resistance by some in our family (even my own husband). But I firmly believe the new brand will help us be more consistent across every facet of our business.
By leaving behind the Conoco name, we had to create new signage for our Cedar Falls site. At the same time, the Moo Roo landlords were putting a new facade on our building. What excellent timing. We would put up new signage featuring our rebrand at the Cedar Falls site, and use the opportunity of a fresh start at Moo Roo to put up new signage there, too. It’s been a long two years of Kimball Avenue road construction and building/parking lot improvements.
Now we are officially Hansen’s Dairy stores, located in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. You can still call it Moo Roo. The family will still casually call it that, and we know others will too. But inside still has all the same goodness it has always had, and the Cedar Falls store will only get better.
If you don’t grow, you’re losing ground. You can bet the farm on it.