Dairy farm uses on-farm processing


CHATFIELD, Minn. (AP) — In Chatfield, a farm of 30 cows is delivering much more than just milk, it’s causing baby boomers to have flashbacks.

Glass bottles of milk are delivered once a week to customers of Kappers Big Red Barn, a dairy that’s becoming a staple in the Minnesota dairy industry.

Bob Kappers grew up on a dairy farm in Spring Valley, and his wife Jeanette Kappers thought the farm life “seemed like a good life.”

The good life they’ve built is a busy and fruitful one, with Kappers Big Red Barn not just focusing on milk, but items like cheese curds and ice cream. Butter will be added soon.

The family business started with milk in 2004, and has branched out to cheese curds, which is now handled by their son Ethan Kappers.

Adding cheese curds wasn’t exactly a smooth process. They spent about a year finding ways to make the squeakiest, freshest curds around.

Changing to meet customer demands is at the heart of the business.

This past summer, they added fried cheese curds after a successful run at Rochester’s Thursday’s on First. They’re now looking at expanding their ice cream flavors. Son Jake Kappers handles the ice cream business.

Jeanette Kappers told Agri News that the family searches for the best farmers markets and places to put their products while interacting with their customers all the same.

That’s Kappers Big Red Barn’s goal — to reach customers and give them a service that isn’t comparable to larger dairy operations. The family attends farmers markets in St. Paul, Apple Valley, Winona and Rochester, creating a work schedule that Jeanette Kappers describes as “not much time off.”

Between milking cows, fixing the bottling machines and trying to expand the product line, Bob Kappers said it’s “always busy, but you’re always together.”

Lucas Kappers, who milks cows, goes to the Apple Valley farmers market, and works on marketing and promotion for the farm, said growing up on a farm is “great” and that most children would never get to experience what he has.

As a young man entering the dairy business, Lucas Kappers is confident and excited for all the opportunities in front of him.
“You put a lot of work into getting one bottle, so you get people that really appreciate what you do,” he said. “It’s a great feeling.”