Dairy Tales: The Story of Wagon Creek Creamery

[Submitted by Barbara Crain of Wagon Creek Creamery.  Barbara and her husband Ron are long-time Coop farmers, and run a grassfed dairy and commercial kitchen in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma]

The Crain family has been farming in Alfalfa County Oklahoma since the land run. I (Barbara) grew up in Tulsa and Ron left the family farm and got a degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.  After our marriage in 1982, we lived in Japan and taught English for a few years.  In 1991, we had an opportunity to return to Ron’s roots and join his father in running a dairy farm.  So, we moved with our 2 small boys to western Oklahoma.

We loved farm life, but after 10 years, and 3 more children, we were becoming increasingly frustrated with commodity farming.  It didn’t matter how hard we worked, or how good the quality of our milk was, we were always at the mercy of the coop milk price and could never seem to get ahead.  We began to explore the idea of setting up a “value added” business and worked with the Food and Agricultural Products Center at OSU, the Department of Agriculture, and a company in Israel and put together a plan for building a creamery and commercial kitchen on the farm.   In 2005, we earned our certification as a dairy processing facility.  A few months later, we learned about the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and joined it and began selling at farmers markets and in stores.

Our original product line included traditional yogurt and a strained yogurt that we called “yogurt cheese”.  A couple of years into production, a friend asked if we’d ever tried making “Greek yogurt” as it was a product that was becoming quite popular.  I looked it up on the internet and discovered that yogurt cheese and Greek yogurt are the same thing, so we changed our labels.  That certainly helped sales since all the big companies were touting the benefits of Greek yogurt.

Through the years, we’ve added one more child to the family, a daughter in law and 4 grandchildren.  We’ve also continued to diversify our dairy product line.  We make raw milk cheeses, mozzarella, ricotta, butter, Greek yogurt dips and even smoothie popsicles.

We are a grass fed dairy (we do not feed grain to our cows), so grass fed beef is a natural extension of what we do.  Ron has spent years improving the pastures and soils on what was once a worn out wheat farm.  The cows are in a rotational grazing system; we don’t use any chemical fertilizers or pesticides.  Two years ago we made the transition to being a seasonal dairy, so our cows calve in the spring and are dry during the winter.  This allows us to produce milk while the pastures are at their peak.

We’re committed to being good stewards of the land and are fascinated by the permaculture idea of using the idea of “calories per acre” as measurement for successful farming.  To that end, we’ve added chickens and eggs, ducks, berries, and lots of trees to our farm.

Because we have a commercial kitchen on the farm, we are able to process and freeze fruits and vegetables.  We also make granola, granola bars and other items.

We continue to try to find ways to make our farm economically viable so that it can be passed on to the next generation.  We sure appreciate groups like the Oklahoma Food Cooperative that help us connect with customers who care about the same issues that we care about.