We are Connie and Laura, the girls of The Golden Yoke dairy. We love our cows, farming, living in rural western Montana, and making incredible ice cream. Our passion is grass-based, seasonal dairy farming, and processing the milk into products for people to enjoy. We are so excited to start our dream and to be able to share it with all of you.
In the recent past, small dairy farms dotted the landscape across the country. In our valley, people recall dozens of dairies where now there are only three. The decline of dairy farms can be attributed to many things -- low returns, the need to do more for less, and a lack of interest from younger generations to take over a labor-intensive, 365 day a year job. This change in the fabric of the dairy community has also led to an overall change in management styles; small farms have gone to the wayside as larger, confined farms have become more prominent.
Making ice cream is a way for us to showcase that small, seasonal dairies are still viable operations. We will be the first new, built from the ground up dairy in Montana in over two decades and the only one processing milk into ice cream.
Our farm is located in the Mission Valley of western Montana, in the middle of farm and ranch country on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Being a supportive neighbor and active member of the community is part of the mission of our farm. We have an "open gate" policy, where visitors will always be welcome to see what we do. We will encourage kids in 4-H and FFA to take an interest in dairy farming by showing a heifer at the local agricultural fairs. Many ingredients that we will use to flavor our ice creams will come from other local farmers, allowing us to support our community and state in multiple ways. We want people of all means to be able to enjoy our ice cream, so we will strive to keep costs low while not compromising our belief that the best products are made with simple ingredients.
The long-range dream is to guide and encourage a whole new generation of dairy farmers who will supply their communities with high-quality dairy products from pastured animals.
Right now, we are going to start down the path by producing a Montana-made product using ingredients from other Montana farmers. The first year of production will help us gain brand recognition and build additional capital that will be reinvested into the dairy. In the second year of production we will debut our pasture line of ice creams, using the milk from our cows. This slow, planned growth will help us build a solid foundation for our business for years to come.
Our Next Steps
In order to start making ice cream, we need to scale up the size of our machine. Right now we are using an attachment on our KitchenAid mixer -- great for making a quart a day (and expanding our waistlines!), but it will not get us too far into producing ice cream for sale.
Connie received two grants that are funding her tuition to attend Penn State's ice cream school, or Sundae School as one of our friends calls it. This course is internationally known as being the best place to learn how to make supreme frozen dairy products. After she attends the course in early January 2014, we will be purchasing an industrial ice cream machine with the potential production capability of up to 16 quarts an hour. Production of ice cream for sale will begin in the spring of 2014. Distribution will start in the Mission Valley and Missoula, and will expand into other areas from there.
What the Funds will go Toward
The funds raised through this Kickstarter campaign will be used in the following ways:
Purchase an industrial sized ice cream machine and have it delivered to western Montana: $9000
Paying for backer rewards and shipping them to you: $3580*
Paying Kickstarter and Amazon fees (around 5% each): about $1500
*For those who live in western Montana (Hamilton to Kalispell): we will hand deliver your backer rewards, or you can come to the farm for a visit and pick them up.
If we raise above the amount we are asking for, we will use the funds to:
Purchase a milking machine: $2500
Revamp The Golden Yoke website (not Facebook) and add an online store: approximately $750
Buy additional branded items to sell on our website: shirts, stickers, bags, hoodies, beanies, cuddly cow toys: $1000
Buy more cows!!: $500 - 1000 each
We thought long and hard about rewards that would be appreciated and unique. Since we will be making ice cream, we are excited to be able to offer taste testing and pints as rewards in addition to more standard items like shirts and stickers.
Backer rewards below $100 include: a hearty thank-you on our Facebook page, stickers, shirts, and pints.
Mid-level rewards include: being a part of the taste-testing team, having pints sent to you if you live far away, insulated bags to carry home your precious ice cream, stickers, special backer shirts, and a big thank-you.
High level rewards include: sponsoring one of next year's calves and getting to name it, a multi-person reward great for a family or group of friends, and getting to be a farmer for a day. All of these also come with specialized shirts, pints, stickers, and more.
Do you live overseas and want to be a part of The Golden Yoke's success? Many of our rewards are geared to ship to people who live in the United States, but we are happy to figure out what would work best for you! Send us a message for more details.
What Happens if We Don't Reach 100%
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing fundraising platform. If we do not meet 100% of our goal, then we do not get anything and none of the backers are charged or receive their backer rewards.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenges we face are regulatory: working through all of the paperwork required by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). We have several large hoops to jump through including label approval, nutrition facts, bar codes, processing/production regulations, and distribution needs. All of these take time, even though we are working with the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center (a value-added food processing facility) that has the know-how to get all of our paperwork in order quickly. If we have set-backs in this area, our production will be pushed back until we have everything done. Backer rewards will still be shipped out except for those that will be receiving pints of ice cream or those with certificates for free pints in the store.
This level is where you get to help us in a big way! Ice cream tasting is a hard job, and somebody has to do it. Take part in a tasting session to give your feedback on our first flavors and get a special, limited edition t-shirt that identifies you as one of the elite club of testers. You will also receive certificates for two pints of ice cream. **Please only choose this reward if you live in a place that allows you to get to our farm in western Montana.
Do you live far away and still want to take part in flavor development? We will mail you a pint of ice cream (you pick from available flavors), an exclusive taste tester shirt, a super nice insulated bag, and a Golden Yoke logo sticker! ***Please only select this option if you live in the United States
This is the perfect reward for a family or a group of friends! We will send you 4 shirts, 4 stickers, certificates for 4 pints of ice cream, and a really cool insulated bag to carry your precious pints. Satisfaction for everyone. If you live far away, we will mail you two pints of ice cream -- you'll have to share but it will be worth it.
Sponsor our next generation of milk cows! Have you always wanted a sweet cow of your own but cannot have one? This is the option for you! You will get to pick a calf from our batch of newborns in 2014, name it, and will receive periodic updates and pictures from its life on the farm. You will also get an exclusive cow ownership shirt to proudly wear wherever you live and a Golden Yoke sticker. And there's more: certificates for 5 pints of ice cream or we will mail you a pint if you live far away!
Come be a farmer for a day! Bring yourself and up to three friends to spend an exciting and informative day on The Golden Yoke farm. You will milk cows, make ice cream, feed calves, help irrigate, collect eggs, hug a sheep, and get your hands dirty! We will feed you a locally raised, home-cooked meal at the end of the day. You and your friends will receive t-shirts, stickers, and a picture of your day as farmers! We can arrange farm stay housing if you wish to extend your stay in western Montana.