As you cruise the highways and back roads of Wisconsin, you can’t help but notice the beauty of the scenery. The views of fertile valleys and majestic hills are simply breathtaking. Pure treasurers. In fact, you may be dreaming of changing your lifestyle. Maybe plant your roots in a different field and start a business you’re passionate about – living every day to the fullest.
Tammy Fritsch, owner and operator of Two Guernsey Girls Creamery, is living her dream. Tammy is passionate about the Guernsey breed, known for producing high quality milk. She owned a few Guernsey show cattle that became the foundation for building her dream of a micro-dairy on a 5-acre farm in rural Outagamie County, Wisconsin. The dream came true in November 2020 when Two Guernsey Girls Creamery launched their new business venture.
Tammy grew up on a dairy farm near Kaukauna, Wisconsin where her family processed Holstein cattle. Like most farm children, she had farming in her blood. After graduating from high school, she went to college but did not study agriculture. Tammy’s heart was with the cows, and it wasn’t long before she was back doing what she loved. There was one thing different when she returned to the ring in 2003. Her then 3-year-old daughter, Breanna, was by her side, sharing the joy. This bond between mother and daughter is still shared today as they regularly travel the show circuits at the local, state and national levels.
Two Guernsey Girls Creamery is an example of how a 4-H project can grow into a successful business. Breanna chose the Guernsey breed when she started her 4-H dairy project. Dairy farmers may recall that it was common years ago to see herds of tawny and white cattle grazing in the countryside. Not so much today. Holsteins are the dominant dairy breed on most farms. Tammy saw the value of the quality milk produced by Guernsey cattle. And knowing that Guernsey’s cattle numbers were down prompted her to take action. She dedicated herself to the improvement and promotion of the breed, and specifically wanted to educate the public about the Guernsey.
Two Guernsey Girls Creamery only sources milk from Tammy’s 15 Guernsey cows, which produce A2 milk. Researchers believe that A2 is the most natural variant of beta-casein and may be easier to digest. This is because it does not contain the beta-casein A1 protein to which some people may be sensitive.
A few years ago, while tending to her cattle show at the Wisconsin State Fair, many people asked Tammy where they could buy milk from Guernsey cows. It was this strong public interest that helped her decide it was time to seriously consider building a micro-dairy and start bottling her Guernsey cow’s milk in a facility in her garden.
Through her contacts at trade shows, Tammy established a network of resource people she could rely on during the planning process. She has known dairy farmers on the East and West coasts with micro-dairies. She had a particularly great mentor in Oregon who she trained with. Tammy reflected this facility when planning and constructing her facility, as Oregon’s regulations are similar to Wisconsin’s.
A micro-dairy is born
In February 2019, Tammy sent her first email to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Commerce and Consumer Protection. From that email to many meetings afterwards, a lot of material has been put together regarding rules, regulations, permits, etc.
First, a business plan had to be drawn up to ensure that the business would be profitable. Research had to be done during the planning phase to establish a price for the product. Tammy visited retail outlets and used the price of specialty milk as a basis to establish a safety zone for pricing her product.
In recent months, production costs have increased. Tammy also adjusted the retail price of her product upward to maintain a profit margin. She bottles milk in glass bottles from Canada. It has commercial dishwasher to clean and reuse the glass bottles; however, only about 40% of bottles are returned. The next delivery of glass bottles will cost a lot more, and because of this extra cost, Tammy is considering bottling more milk in plastic jugs.
In addition to the financial aspects, every physical aspect of the micro-dairy also had to be meticulously planned and approved. The day Tammy started, she had a total of 19 permits. She contacted city, county and state offices to make sure she was compliant on all bases.
Tammy is happy with her facilities, but would like to have more storage space in the farm store, office and refrigeration area. The company has already outgrown a 60 gallon cheese vat, and recently upgraded to a 175 gallon cheese vat to meet the demand for their cheese products.
Details are important and Tammy is committed to providing customers with a great tasting, safe and healthy product. The creamery and dairy barn are meticulously cleaned and regularly inspected by State of Wisconsin licensed inspectors. Each batch of bulk tank is sampled and cleared of antibiotics by a local lab.
Cheese is made two days a week and milk is bottled three days a week. Tammy uses her own milk from her Guernsey cows and does not buy milk. The milk is pasteurized in tanks using a small pasteurizer. It is a slow and steady process where the milk is kept as natural as possible. The milk is not homogenized. The cream will separate upwards.
Tammy currently works under the direction of a retired master cheese maker who is on site twice a week. She is grateful to have the opportunity to learn from him. By December, she will have had 18 months of training and time to prepare for the exam, with plans to get her own cheesemaker’s license.
Each day’s work is determined by the product produced in the processing plant. Cheese-making days are the longest – milking and chores start at 5 a.m., followed by seven hours in the processing plant (8 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Then after an hour’s rest, it’s back to the barn for the evening milking and chores.
Farm shop and tours
Tammy’s Farm Store, located at W1872 County Road UU, Freedom, Wisconsin, is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. She sells her milk and cheese curds through her farm store and markets her products through eight local outlets, as well as outlets spanning Port Washington, Sheboygan, Portage, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and even the north Chicago area. And since June, Woldt’s Farm Store near Brillion, Wis., has also offered Two Guernsey Girls merchandise.
Customers are welcome to browse the store and tour the facilities. Visitors can view the processing facility through large windows and observe the flow of milk from the cows to the milk tank through a glass pipeline.
Customers can choose from chocolate or white bottled milk and a variety of cheese curds: plain cheddar, ranch, Italian, sour cream and onion, garlic and herbs, chives and jalapeno. In addition, customers can find an assortment of local meat products (beef and pork), eggs and various other local products. Soon there will be flavored milk – vanilla latte, orange creme and the traditional strawberry flavor which is hugely popular.
Tammy ends the day like her fellow dairy farmers, saying goodnight to the girls in the barn who make it all possible, and knowing that these cows are being well cared for and comfortably providing more milk for tomorrow’s processing. It really is a dream come true.
Information about Two Guernsey Girls Creamery can be found at twoguernseygirlscreamery.com. Tammy markets her produce at the Green Bay Farmers Market on Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. to noon.
Grotjan is the Outagamie County Dairy and Livestock Educator. Anyone who wants to establish their own micro-dairy will have their own vision and their own dream. Each contractor must assemble the pieces to fit their plan. Meetings with financial advisors, business planners, and the Wisconsin DATCP are essential to ensure that all necessary items are in order and approved. If you are interested in starting a micro-dairy, please contact your local University of Wisconsin-Extension ag.