THANK YOU EVERYONE who made this a success.
At 26 years old, I can make my career dreams come true right now because I've had the help and support of many incredible people.
We reached our funding goal, but donations continue to come in and I am so grateful to those people! I want you to know any additional funds will go towards purchasing a milk tank, a feed tank & feeders, alfalfa and grain.
Here is another reward: I have a small flock of sheep, which will begin lambing any day. For a $100 pledge you can name and adopt a lamb!! Check it out in the rewards section!
I am Marissa Thornton, 26 years old and the sixth generation of my family to care for our 1,000 acre ranch.
I grew up raising animals, which naturally led me to a B.S. degree in Animal Science. Since graduating, I moved back to the ranch to apply what I learned and start my own dairy business. Dairying is in my blood, and I can't imagine doing anything else with my life.
A couple of years ago I was introduced to Seana Doughty & Dave Dalton, owners of Bleating Heart Cheese. Early in 2013, they leased and renovated a building on our ranch, transforming it into a small but modern microcreamery. Bleating Heart now produces delicious, award-winning cheeses right here on the ranch.
What is a boutique cow dairy? The definition of "boutique" is:
- a business that serves a sophisticated, specialized clientele.
Most dairies these days exist for mass production of fluid milk. My "boutique" dairy will break that mold! I will be very small and specialize in high-quality milk sold exclusively to an artisan cheesemaker. Fortunately, I already have an artisan creamery located conveniently on my family's ranch, just waiting to buy my milk!
What will the Kickstarter money do?
With $35,000* I can buy 20 organic Jersey Cows. The jersey girls will freely graze our 1,000 acres of pasture and produce an average of 700 gallons of milk each week.
I will sell the milk to Bleating Heart, who will make small 150-200 gallon batches of cheese several times per week, yielding 600-700 pounds of hand-made cheese. (This may sound like a lot, but it's not - industrial cheese plants in California produce well over a million pounds of cheese per day!)
Both the dairy facilities and Bleating Heart Creamery are on my family's 1,000 acre ranch, which is in coastal Northern California.
150 years ago my ancestors immigrated from Ireland. They settled on the best farm land they could find, where the cool climate and lush pastures were perfectly suited for dairy cows. They established the dairy in 1852, and with each passing generation the business grew.
In 1977 my grandpa built a new, bigger parlor for his 200 cows. My dad and grandpa ran the dairy business together until 2001, when my grandpa sadly passed away. My dad was forced to sell all the cows in order to pay off unexpected taxes he faced upon my grandpa's death.
I was a kid at the time and absolutely heartbroken to see the family dairy shut down because it had always been my dream to take over the business someday.
Ever since the cows had to be sold in 2001, I kept my dream alive. I pondered ways I could re-establish the dairy but with a different business model than most other dairies, who had to "get big or get out."
My concept is to have just a small herd of cows I can manage myself. This will allow me to have an intimate bond with each cow and make sure the girls are always happy and healthy. I want to see my premium milk made into a valuable end-product I can take pride in. When I see, smell and taste the cheeses Bleating Heart makes with my milk, I'll have the fulfillment of knowing my cows and I contribute to something truly special. I would love to see the soil, grasses and ocean air of my land and region reflected in the products. This was simply a vision in my mind until I met Seana & Dave. Now with our synergistic partnership, my vision has become a solid, feasible business plan.
Bleating Heart has been looking for a source of premium quality jersey cow milk in order to develop new cheeses. They recently won Super Gold for their "Fat Bottom Girl" cheese, and a Gold for "Ewelicious Blue" at the 2013 World Cheese Awards. Now they wish to adapt their award-winning recipes to create 2 new jersey cow milk cheeses. This will allow them to expand their selection of fabulous cheese and continue cheese production year round. With my small boutique cow dairy, Bleating Heart will have a guaranteed milk source and I will have a guaranteed buyer...right next door! It will provide more stable year round income for them and for me, making both small businesses financially sustainable, while upholding our mutual commitment to responsible stewardship of the land and the well-being of the animals producing the milk. Plus it will bring delicious new cheeses into the marketplace that we can truly say capture our terroir.
*If your support goes beyond $35,000, the money will be used to buy a small milk storage tank, feed for the cows (to supplement their diet when there is no grass) and miscellaneous supplies for the milking parlor.
Risks and challenges
Getting the required permits and licenses is always a challenge for any business. Fortunately, I've already secured the necessary approvals for my small cow dairy operation. The final item I need (besides the cows!) is the dairy license which will permit me to sell my milk to Bleating Heart; even though they are making cheese right next to my milking parlor, I still need this license to legally sell them milk. I will apply for the license when the cows are on site and I'm ready to start milking. I've built a productive working relationship with my local dairy inspector. She has already visited the facility and will continue to be involved along the way, so I feel confident and well-prepared.
It may seem risky to have just one buyer for all of my milk, but we already have a milk contract for Bleating Heart to purchase all of the milk. Their business growth is dependent upon being able to turn more milk into cheese, so the risk of them backing out is extremely low. They are counting on this additional milk supply! In the unlikely event that the contractual obligations could not be met, there are numerous other artisan cheese companies within a small radius of my farm who would jump at the chance to purchase my jersey milk. I am confident that even without the contract with Bleating Heart, I would have no problem selling all of the milk my cows would produce.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)