June is National Dairy Month and I recently spent some time at Hansen’s Diary near Hudson, IA. This family-run operation has been providing the Cedar Valley with their own brand of fresh milk and dairy products for almost 15 years.
A true family farm, Jay & Jean Hansen lead everyone on the farm and their retail stores, making the operation successful. From taking care of the animals, to crop production that provides high-quality feed, making the dairy products, delivery, marketing, bookkeeping, giving tours, selling products as well as working in and running stores, it takes all of them working together to get quality products into the hands of their customers.
Hansen’s make several dairy products including: milk, cheese curds, cream, butter and ice cream. Milk needs to be pasteurized, or heated to a certain temperature to kill any bacteria that could cause serious health problems in humans. However, Hansen’s milk is not homogenized.
Fresh, Non-Homogonized Milk
When milk straight from the cow rests for a while, it naturally separates. Much like vinegar & oil salad dressing. The milk or liquid part settles to the bottom, and the lighter, fattier cream floats to the top. Most creameries (including Hansen’s) “scrape” the cream off the top of the milk. They use the cream to make butter, cheese, ice cream or whole cream and sell the liquid milk. A little cream is naturally left with the liquid milk. The longer the milk sits, the more cream will separate out of it.
Homogenization is mixing the milk so well that the cream no longer separates. Hansen’s do not homogenize their milk so it needs to be shaken before pouring it out of the jug–unless you want small globs of cream in your glass. Many people who have milk intolerances find they can drink Hansen’s milk. The non-homogenization may play a role in this.
Working and Playing Together
When asked what is her favorite part of what her family does, Jean Hansen grins and admits, “I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.” She enjoys offering people a product “that tastes good and is good for them.” She tells me about college kids who grew up on Hansen’s Dairy milk. “They tell their parents to bring a gallon of our milk when they come to visit.” She also loves talking with people who come to the farm from all over the world, learning from them as much as they learn about their dairy.
Jordan Hansen, Jean & Jay’s daughter-in-law, is in charge of bookkeeping, marketing, tours and the newsletter. She guides most of the daily tours and creates the monthly e-MOOsletter which includes one of my recipes. Jordan loves how each family member is committed to their individual work roles on the farm and can still “play together” and enjoy each other’s company at the end of the day. She gestures toward the pond off Jay & Jean’s home where cousins are cooling off at the end of the work day.
Cheesy Beef & Broccoli
Here is the recipe I had in the June e-MOOsletter. While I had the non-dairy version (unfortunately dairy does not agree with me), I’ve been told it was a hit and one to use again. It didn’t take long to make and has just a few ingredients, so it’s a good one to use when supper needs to get on the table in a hurry.
It can easily be doubled (use 2 skillets or a 5-7 quart stock pot/kettle) to have leftovers or to use as a one-dish meal. Any kind of ground meat or shredded cheese can be used. However, I used Hansen’s ground beef, shredded cheese and onions purchased in the Cedar Falls Store and broccoli I had in the freezer from last year.
You can purchase Hansen’s Dairy products as well as find other locally sourced products at their 3 stores:
- On the farm at Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy 8461 Hudson, IA 50643
- In Cedar Falls at Hansen’s Dairy Cedar Falls (formerly Hansen’s Outlet) 127 E18th Street Cedar Falls, IA 50613
- Or in Waterloo at Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (formerly Moo Roo) 3515 Kimball Ave Waterloo, IA 50702.
Their milk and other products can also be found in many Hy-Vee, and Fareway stores as well as other locally-owned grocery stores throughout the Cedar Valley such as Trunck’s Country Foods in Reinbeck and Randall’s in Hudson.
Check out the Tours page on their website and see Hansen’s Dairy Farm Operation yourself. Tours are held almost every day in the summer and on specific days during the school year. You’ll need reservations as they fill up quickly. You can also sign up for the e-MOOsletter and see what’s happening throughout the year and find a recipe from Good Food Connections.
What’s your favorite cheese? Share in the comments.