Crystal Ball Farms Organic Dairy
In our fourth on-location interview, we gained an inside look at Crystal Ball Farms, a family-owned and operated organic dairy farm located along the St. Croix River in Osceola, WI. Farm owner Troy DeRosier and manager Jessi Fouks walked us through the details of pasture-raised dairy cattle and processing organic dairy products on the sustainable farm.
Husband and wife team, Troy and Barb DeRosier, started the organic Crystal Ball Farms 14 years ago. “We built the creamery for our son, Jared, who has a disability,” Troy explained. “We needed to have a financially sustainable business for our family.” With the expanding market and growing demand for organic dairy products, Crystal Ball Farms found a viable niche in the farming industry and created financial stability for the small farming family.
According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), organic dairy is the second largest organic food category: it accounts for 15% of the total organic food sales, and the industry grossed $6.0 billion in sales in 2015, an increase of over 10 percent (www.ota.com).
Despite the growth of the organic industry, operating a certified organic farm is no small feat. The process to become certified is rigorous, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has strict rules, regulations, and constant inspections. The USDA organic regulations encompass all farm activities from soil fertility to the health and well-being of livestock (usda.gov).
With a long history of organic crop farming, Troy had many of the organic practices already in place. “I’d been growing organic crops for more than 30 years, so the transition to organic dairy farming was pretty smooth,” stated Troy. “Once there became a market for organic milk, we built the creamery and switched over to feeding all of our cows our own organic feed.”
To increase the farm’s sustainability and to reduce energy costs, Crystal Ball Farms installed roof-top solar panels to the barns, creamery, and granary. The solar panels provide renewable energy for the entire farm, including lighting and utilities.
At Crystal Ball Farms, organic means raising cows with a holistic approach, Jessi explained. In the summer, the cows roam free in the pasture. Overnight and during the winter, the cows are kept safe from the harsh environmental elements in free-stall barns. They are grass-fed, and their supplement food is organically grown on-site with vitamins and minerals essential for the health of the cows.
Following organic standards, the farm’s crops are non-GMO and grown without the use of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Through organic practices such as crop rotation, “We feed the soil that feeds the plant,” explained Troy. “Conventional growers feed the plant, not the soil. It’s a totally different means of farming.”
Keeping the cows healthy and happy is important to the family, not only for environmental reasons, but also for dairy production. “The well-being of the animals, and what you feed your animals, has a huge impact on milk production and the taste of the milk,” Troy said.
As an on-location dairy processing and bottling plant, consistent flavor and freshness is imperative for Crystal Ball Farms. To preserve the natural state of the organic milk and produce less processed dairy products, the milk is non-homogenized and vat-pasteurized.
“Homogenizing is an extra process the milk goes through to break the milkfat down into smaller particles,” Troy stated. “It’s an unnatural state that extends the shelf life.” In addition, medical studies by Dr. Kurt A. Oster show that homogenized milk may be linked to heart disease.
Based on federal law requirements from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), all organic and non-organic milk products must be pasteurized – a heating and cooling process that kills bacteria in the milk to extend shelf life. Crystal Ball Farms uses vat-pasteurizing, the mildest form of this process that allows the milk to maintain its freshest state and the sweet, creamy flavor.
The fresh and organic dairy products available at Crystal Ball Farms include farm fresh milk, cheese, butter, cheese curds, and ice cream. These products are available through the farm’s retail store, and they deliver products directly to consumers and local stores. The Watershed Café proudly features Crystal Ball Farms’ organic cream and their organic milk line including whole, skim, and chocolate milk. Farm owner, Barb DeRosier, dubbed the chocolate milk as “brownie in a bottle,” and that’s the most accurate description! We use Crystal Ball Farms’ products not only for our coffees, lattes, and hot chocolates, but also in our Homemade Macaroni and Cheese dish.
For more information about Crystal Ball Farms, visit their Facebook page.