Meet Our Farmers
Working together to raise and harvest crops, milk cows, and care for animals has been a tradition for the Hansen family of Hudson, Iowa, for more than 150 years. In order to provide opportunities for the sixth generation of the Hansen family to be involved in the farm, they added several new traditions, including processing milk, ice cream and other products on the farm, opening retail stores and delivering products to stores throughout the area.
Jay and Jeanne Hansen raised their five children on the family dairy farm where they milked Holstein cows and raised crops for feed. In the early 2000s, two of the Hansen sons returned to work on the farm and the other two sons were interested in also joining the business.
However, just like any small business, the Hansens needed to find ways for the dairy farm to grow to support more families.
“We had already increased our milk production to ensure enough income for two families, and needed to find more ways to support two additional families,” said Jay.
The family looked at two options, either investing in building infrastructure on the farm to add more cows to increase milk production to sell to processors, or investing in building their own on-farm processing plant. After significant research, tours and discussions, they decided to begin processing their own milk.
They broke ground on Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy creamery located on their own farm in 2002 and processed the first gallon of whole milk in February 2004. They began selling whole milk, then added skim milk and 1 percent lines. As demand for skim and 1 percent milk lines grew, they had a surplus of cream, so began making ice cream.
Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy currently processes about 8,000 gallons of milk each week, all coming from their herd of 170 Holstein cows. All milk is pasteurized, and as a commercial creamery, they meet or exceed all state standards and are inspected regularly by state agencies.
The family initially sold milk through their farm store, home deliveries and local stores. When they began making ice cream, they also looked for more opportunities to take their farm-fresh product direct to their customers. They opened a retail store in Waterloo in 2006 and another store in Cedar Falls in 2007. The stores sell Hansen’s milk, butter, cheese curds, ice cream and cream, along with high-quality staple food items from other local farmers and entrepreneurs. In addition, the stores sell Hansen’s soft-serve ice cream treats.
Reflecting on more than a decade of processing and selling their own products, Jay Hansen is happy with how well things have gone.
“It has been a terrific experience for our family, both economically and socially,” he said. “We are not dependent on milk prices paid by processors, so have better control of our business, and it has given our family members the opportunity to be involved in the business in their own way.”
Each son takes responsibility for one area of the business: Blake cares for cows and calves; Blair manages field work to raise feed for the animals; Brad is responsible for the creamery and processing; and Brent handles sales, delivery and public relations for the retail stores and other outlets. Jay and Jeanne help with management and tours, and daughter-in-law Jordan manages bookkeeping and marketing. They also have about 35 non-family employees.
Not only have the Hansens found a strong customer base for their dairy products, they’ve also found a huge interest in their farm and where the dairy products come from. They started getting requests for tours almost immediately and now give tours to about 5,000 visitors each year.
“We have a responsibility to show consumers how milk is made,” said Jordan Hansen. However, she noted that the first few years, the family used the farm shop as a tour headquarters, which wasn’t ideal for hosting visitors.
In 2012, they built a tour center and retail store at the farm. It also features a rental space for corporate functions, family reunions, and other events.
They host many school field trips in the spring and provide daily scheduled tours during the summer months. During tours, visitors can milk a cow, pet a calf and meet the kangaroos that are Hansen’s mascots and logo. Blake Hansen became interested in kangaroos after a trip to Australia, and they have become a great addition to the petting zoo and family!
Looking to the future, Jay said the family is planning a remodel of their Cedar Falls store, has expanded sales into the Cedar Rapids market, and will continue to diversify its product line to meet consumer demand. He’s also looking ahead to a possible seventh generation joining the family business.
“We have 15 grandchildren, with the older ones now becoming teenagers and looking for part-time jobs and possible career options for the future. Between the farm, processing, and retail parts of the business, we have lots of opportunities for them to find a path that interests them,” he said.
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