The New Frontier: The Last One Standing - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

The New Frontier: The Last One Standing

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In the state of Montana, scattered between thousands of acres of wheat and pulses, are just four dairy processing plants... and only one of them is in the Flathead Valley.

The big question: how has Kalispell Kreamery survived? Owner Mary Tuck says it's pretty simple.

"So literally overnight on a napkin over dinner, we wrote down, all we had was a napkin, we were just writing down notes about oh this would be cool, let's do this and this, and before we knew it everything was just kind of falling into place."

The idea Tuck's family discovered that night is called vertical integration... Kalispell Kreamery is now involved in every process from the moment the milk leaves the cow, to when you pick it up off a store shelf.

 

Early on, this wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The family farm had very little capital to buy the equipment, and when it came time to buy a second-hand bottle filler from Colorado, the family was shocked to see the parts dropped off in their driveway as chopped-up pieces in a horse trailer.


"It took us about six months to go through each little piece and everything to put all that back together."
 

But it worked out, and over the past ten years Kalispell Kreamery has become a staple not only in the community, but across the state. Their facilities produce about two thousand gallons of milk a day, and they’ve added yogurt to their products, which no one else in the state is doing.

Tuck says part of this success has been riding the wave of “farm to table” products.


"Well that's one of the reasons why we decided we could do this, when you go back to us sitting around that kitchen table… And we were trying to figure out what we were gonna do to help the dairy survive,” says Tuck. “One of the things one of us brought up that kinda got the engine going was you know there's a lot of demand for knowing your farmer, knowing your food."
 

But in the same breath, the business has mostly avoided new trends and fads, like organic products. Tuck says requirements for certification would double the cost, and they’re not willing to pass that along to their customers.

And when asked about the raw milk movement…


"I think for us to go into raw milk, if it ever passed, would be a really serious discussion among the owners, and whether or not that's something we really would want to do. At this point we're sort of standing on the fence, maybe leaning a little more towards not doing it simply because we do have a good thing here, we do have a pasteurizer, we've made an investment in that process as it is, and even if raw milk becomes legal, it doesn't mean the consumer is going to trust raw milk, it just means we can make it, it doesn't mean people are going to want to drink it."
 

For Mary Tuck and her family, the dairy farm is their life. And while demand may change over time, and products may expand, the one thing she knows for certain is how to stay true to their mission… and ultimately, who’s really in charge.


"Milk is perfect when it comes from the cow. It's everything we do with it afterwards that makes it bad, or makes it worse."

This summer, Kalispell Kreamery plans to expand as the only yogurt producer in the state, and will be releasing more varieties and flavors throughout Montana. For more information, visit their website
here.

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