BROOTEN, Minn. – Jer-Lindy Farms and Redhead Creamery, a partnership between two generations of the Jennissen family, have been recognized with a 2016 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability. The 200-cow Brooten, Minn., farm was acknowledged for its multi-generational commitment to a number of innovative sustainable practices. Highlights include reducing the farm’s energy use by 20 percent by utilizing an energy efficiency program, not using any commercial fertilizer on any of its 258 acres, and feeding whey byproduct generated while making artisan cheese at their on-site cheese processing operation back to their cows. The farm has also achieved Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification, improving water quality of the nearby Crow River for local residents and wildlife.
The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy®, established under the leadership of dairy farmers, announced the winners of the fifth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards on May 11 at a ceremony in Chicago. The program recognizes outstanding dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose sustainable practices positively affect the health and well-being of consumers, communities, animals and the environment.
Jerry and Linda Jennissen have owned Jer-Lindy Farms since 1983, and can trace the farm’s ownership back to 1875, when it was originally homesteaded. Since purchasing the farm, both Jerry and Linda have maintained a deeply rooted commitment to finding ways to innovate and expand their business to meet the needs of their family now, and for future generations. One such way that they have done this is by partnering with their daughter, Alise, who had the vision of moving back to the family farm to raise her family and open a creamery.
That dream became a reality in 2013, when Alise and her husband, Lucas, with the support of Jerry and Linda — as well as a quickly funded Kickstarter campaign backed by nearly 500 enthusiastic fans — opened the doors to the successful Redhead Creamery, which is located on the family farm.
Redhead Creamery, lovingly named for Alise’s red hair, makes cheese curds, Lucky Linda cave-aged cheddar — named for Linda Jennissen — and other artisan cheeses like North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster and Little Lucy Brie, which is named after Alise’s daughter, the third generation on the farm. It offers farm and creamery tours to the public on weekends, as well as a tasting room and retail store where visitors can purchase freshly made cheese and baked goods, and learn more about the care and effort that goes into dairy farming.
Each of the cheese varieties made by Redhead Creamery is available at the creamery and is made with milk that comes directly from Jer-Lindy Farms. In fact, the families received approval from the Department of Agriculture to send warm milk straight from the dairy to the creamery, saving energy by not having to both cool and re-heat the milk as is commonly done.
The creamery’s offerings have been an immediate hit, both locally and globally. Its cheese is available at more than 80 stores across the Midwest, and the Lucky Linda Clothbound Aged Cheddar took home a sixth-place finish in its category at the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest.
“Our goal is to be sustainable while profitable, with water and soil quality as two of our critical focus points,” Jerry said. “We’ve been able to make sustainability profitable, and by being as forward-thinking as possible, we hope to pave the way to a strong future for our farm and creamery.”
“The success of Redhead Creamery has attracted new interest from new audiences like foodies, cheese-lovers and enthusiasts of locally made goods to Jer-Lindy Farms and has helped ensure the family business will continue to be successful for years to come,” Linda added.
To ensure the longevity of its land as well as the business, Jerry and Linda maintain a forward-thinking approach to maintaining the legacy of the family farm. In place of commercial fertilizer, the farm uses manure produced by its 200 cows to fertilize crops, and utilizes a weekly monitoring service to scan for weeds and harmful pests, saving unnecessary herbicide and pesticide application. Furthermore, the farm uses a soil sampling method called “gridding,” which reduces the amount of lime applied to alfalfa fields, applying it only in the areas where it is needed.
U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award winners were selected based on results as measured by economic, environmental and community impact. An independent panel of judges — which included experts working with and through the dairy community — also looked for learning, innovation, improvement, scalability and replicability.