Sunday, May 17, 2009

LW Dairy Thinks Big

If you think the days of bottled milk being delivered right to your doorstep are long gone, then you need to meet Larry and Maria Westhoff.

I first met this power couple about four years ago through my work with the Dairy Business Innovation Center. At the time, they were buying milk from a local bottler and running a home delivery business, delivering glass bottled milk and local food products to homes in the Milwaukee area. They had approached the DBIC for help exploring the possibility of building their own milk bottling plant and run their home delivery business from start to finish. 

The Westhoffs knew the dairy industry inside and out. Larry grew up on a Missouri dairy farm where his dad still milks cows today. He moved to Wisconsin where he worked on dairy farms in the New London area and then operated his own dairy farm. In 2001, they stopped milking cows and bought a fleet of trucks and delivered milk door to door for an Appleton-based dairy.

It was about in 2005 that my colleague, Norm Monsen and I, agreed to meet them at their home to talk about possible next steps in growing their business. As we sat at their kitchen table inside their spotless kitchen, I remember admiring the green and burgundy wallpaper and the design of the house. I asked if they had any kids, because frankly, the house looked WAY too clean for any little ones to be around.

Well, turns out the Westhoffs are as efficient at running their home as they are their dairy plant. Because at at the time, my jaw about dropped to the floor when Maria said they had six kids under the age of 8. Today, the kids, ages 5 to 12 (pictured above), are all busy with age-appropriate jobs in the Westhoff's brand new dairy plant they built near their home last summer in Ashippun, Wis.

The Westhoffs have successfully built LW Dairy into a start to finish operation, bottling milk at their own plant and then running an extensive home delivery route featuring a catalog of whole, 2 percent, 1 percent, skim and chocolate milk. They also market juice and bakery products, as well as a host of Wisconsin cheeses.  Larry's route is in the middle of the night, so customers wake up to milk on the doorsteps in the morning.

He runs to the Lakeshore area on Milwaukee's east side on Tuesdays, Madison on Wednesdays, and the Cedarburg, Grafton and Mequon area on Thursdays. On Friday, he heads to the Germantown, Menomonee Falls and Brookfield area. My guess is he collapses on Saturdays.

Maria does the grocery store runs in Hartford, Oconomowoc, Watertown, Wauwatosa, Brookfield and several other communities. She also does in-store demos. 

Currently, the Westhoffs buy their milk through a cooperative, but are hoping to develop a direct relationship with a local farmer in order to eliminate the middleman.  They're hoping this next step will help make their milk even more affordable to their customers while allowing the farmer to get a premium for high-quality milk.

If past experience is any indication, the Westhoffs will be nothing but successful. What a great example of a hard-working Wisconsin couple doing things on their own terms. Congrats!

4 comments:

Lo said...

Interesting information. It's nice to see the door-to-door dairy business returning to the area.

I'd be interested in milk delivery from a farm that offers non-homogenized milk and/or raw milk (not sure if the raw options is even possible under local regulation). Any leads in that area?

cheese underground lady said...

Hi Lo -- there are a couple Wisconsin farmstead dairies that bottle non-homogenized, or cream-line milk, but they only deliver to a pretty local route. One is Blue Marble in Barneveld and the other is Castle Rock Organic Dairy near Osseo. If you live near either of these areas, you may be in luck for home delivery. Just google either dairy and you'll get the contact info.

cheese underground lady said...

Oh - forgot to answer to the part about raw milk. It's officially considered to be illegal by the powers that be at the State of Wisconsin, but you can get around the law if you purchase it direct from the farmer, provided you buy a share of the farmer's cow and sign your life away in indemnity clauses. I know of some farmers in the Madison area - email me for specific info and I can connect you to folks who know more. jeanne@wordartisanllc.com

Lo said...

Thanks for the info. I'm actually more-or-less aware of the regulations surrounding raw milk. I know I can get it from a local farm (and do)... but delivery would totally rock :) And I keep hoping one of these days something will change to make it easier on all of us.

Am closer to Milwaukee -- and I can get non-homogenized milk through Outpost Natural Foods... including Castle Rock, if I'm not mistaken.

Thanks for the refs...