If you live in Michigan, chances are you’ve heard of MOO-ville Creamery. They were voted the #1 Ice Cream Parlor in Michigan in 2012 and their line of dairy products can be found in over 120 stores, restaurants and coffee shops across the state. You’ve probably heard of them, but you won’t see any advertisements bearing their name – not for their different kinds of milk, not for their cheese or butter and not for their yogurt. You won’t even see an ad touting their award winning ice cream. That’s because they’ve grown their business using the same approach they take to production – as naturally as possible.
Their efficient and natural approach starts by feeding their cows with crops grown on the family’s own 750 acres which allows them to control more of what the cow eats, and therefore the quality of the milk. Their non-homogenized line called ‘Creamline’ that has become a favorite and even found to be tolerated by many would-be customers who suffer from lactose intolerance.
Nearly 25 years before MOO-ville Creamery came to be, Doug Westendorp – who was farming with his dad and brother at the time – wanted to strike out on his own. Most would say that having six kids under the age of six wouldn’t seem like an ideal time to embark on such a risky journey, but Doug and wife Louisa both had farming in their blood. They’d met while attending high school in Allegan Township and were involved in farming from an early age. They married and started their own family, being blessed with an extraordinary situation – their six children came to them in just three pregnancies. First one child was born, then twins and then, from the third and final pregnancy - triplets! And so, in 1991, Doug took his very unique family and moved east, to Nashville, Michigan. There, the Westendorps began their new venture with just 60 cows and a strong resolve to make it work.
Ten years later, Doug and Louisa’s children had grown considerably, as had their farm – officially known as Westvale-View Dairy. As their children showed continued interest in farming, the couple began giving serious thought to an idea that could help to sustain their family into the future; they wanted to build their own creamery. By 2004, the idea had materialized and they broke ground. In the spring of 2005 – MOO-ville Creamery opened its doors with a very simple philosophy:
“If it’s not better, why bother?”
During its first year of business, the only product sold at MOO-ville Creamery that actually came from the Westendorp farm was the milk. The ice cream they offered customers had to be purchased elsewhere. That first year was tough on the family. They would often wonder if they could really make this work. Even though they were close to giving up, it was Doug and Louisa’s vision of having the creamery and the farm together, an idea that could sustain their family well into the future that made them stick with it
As a matter of fact, rather than give up – during that second year of operation the family began expanding their operation; and they haven’t stopped yet. Some of the changes include the introduction of the MOO-ville brand ice cream, – made from milk that gravity feeds right from the barn up the hill – as well as chocolate milk, butter, cheese and new to the creamery this year, cheese curds.
The popularity of their products eventually meant expansions in their farm needed to take place in order to keep up with demand. In 2012, a new barn was built that would allow them to increase their herd to 220 cows. The family did a considerable amount of research when deciding what components their expanded operation would feature and the idea of robotic milking took center stage. After visiting farms in thirteen 13 different states, they finally had their plans mapped out and subsequently became just the seventh farm in the state of Michigan to utilize robots for milking.
Naturally, when you offer a better product, people are curious how you do it. It wasn’t long after they opened the creamery that customers began asking ‘How do you make such fresh tasting milk?’ It was that curiosity that brought forth the idea to give tours. Now, on any given Saturday, you can go on a tour of their operation. With ice cream cone in-hand, visit the robotic milking barn or the creamery and everything in-between.
It’s during the week, though – that they make their biggest impact on dairy education. It seems there is always a bus load of school children touring the farm. Apparently the question “Where does milk come from?” is answered all too often with shouts of “The store!” Of course, the Westvale-View Dairy tour guides are happy to set them straight. This year alone, over 9,000 school children have toured the farm and creamery, as well as the farm’s most recent addition: a petting zoo. The petting zoo offers folks of all ages a hands-on way to learn about other farm animals in addition to cows.
The Westondorp family plans to continue bringing their natural approach to dairy production and education to Michigan, well into the future. Whether it’s hosting a tour to school aged children, providing a unique venue for a company picnic or simply dreaming up the newest flavor of MOO-ville ice cream, they are happy to share their passion. The only day you can’t tour the farm is Sunday because the creamery is closed. . A controversial decision at times, but to them – the day of rest just feels like another natural thing to do.
On Sunday (or any other day) you can find MOO-ville online at www.MOO-ville.com, or follow them on Facebook.
Part of their success has been forming great relationships with key suppliers. Having a resource like Michigan Veterinary Supply (MVS), a division of ANIMART, Inc. has helped make operating and expanding the farm much more efficient. The addition of ANIMART, Inc. to the relationship offers an even wider array of products and the feeling that most anything they need is right at their fingertips.
About the Author:
Shelli Manning is a freelance writer who has partnered with ANIMART, Inc. to share the human interest side of individuals in production agriculture and communicate their passions which contribute to our unique American Story. She is the published author of Little Fish, as well as a motivational speaker on women’s issues and an advocate for the reduction of domestic violence.