Hildebrand Farms Dairy of Junction City, Kansas is owned and operated by brothers David and his wife Kathy as well as Alan and his wife Mary. Both brothers have children who actively work on the farm including Melissa who serves as the operations manager and Tod who helps with the crop enterprise and day-to-day dairy operations. This fourth-generation farm milks 150 cows as well as produces 1,850 acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa.
In September of 2008, the family built an on-site bottling plant with the goal to be a fully sustainable farm. When they first started this process, they were selling Central Equity what they had leftover, which was almost 90% at the time. But throughout the years the farm began to use 75% of its own milk in their bottling plant up until they were at 100% capacity. Since then, the farm has learned how to have a strong strategic milk marketing plan and today follow a general rule of thumb to carry a small excess supply. This surplus is used in a nearby cheese plant but could also still be bought by Central Equity. The family realizes how fortunate they are to have this relationship but also value those of their neighbors by returning the favor when any creameries similar in size are short on milk by providing their extras.
Today the farm produces nine varieties of milk and two varieties of butter throughout 150 stores across Kansas. The Hildebrands have an established relationship with Kroger and have products in 53 stores, but you can also find them in Sprouts, Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, and local coffee shops and restaurants. In 2021 they also partnered with a door-to-door delivery company that services areas like Kansas City and more. Besides offering great products, the Hildebrands stands by an open-door policy that encourages their local community to better understand and experience the dairy industry. They host more than 10,000 students on the farm annually and also have many different events including on-farm yoga, cooking demonstrations, harvest festivals, and “moo-vie” nights.
Besides being a great local influence in their community the Hildebrand farm is also seen as a strong industry partner. Two years ago, the farm established a partnership with the USDA Research Center to conduct research on the direct effects of mosquitoes on livestock. This research not only focuses on better ways to trap and count mosquitoes but also devices that could eliminate or ward off the pest. But it doesn’t stop there, they have also worked with Kansas State University to collaborate on butter and ice cream recipes as well as being an in-field teaching center for educational opportunities for those students.
Because of this and more, it is no surprise the Hildebrands have been awarded the International Dairy Federation Association (IDFA) 2022 Innovative Dairy Producer of the Year award. With over nine decades of successfully thinking outside the box to not only stay profitable but also charging towards the industry’s sustainability commitment they truly deserve this honor. As for the future, the Hildebrands are looking to technology, exploring things like robotic milking systems and how their growth can include more income per gallon of milk. Like many dairy farmers, they hang their hat on always working towards a more sustainable farm and saying yes when opportunities present themselves!