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Lapp dairy farm is all natural

Cassadaga family treats its cows with care, shunning chemicals,hormones and antibiotics, and selling directly to the local market

By Janice Okun
News Food Editor

Article from buffalonews.com

If you happen to be a cow –it just doesn’t get any better than this. Six Brown Swiss and Jersey/ German Reds living on the Lapp Farm Dairy in Cassadaga enjoy fresh green grass and new pasture daily from April through November. When the weather worsens, they lounge on aerated sawdust bedding in a barn where there are no stalls. They can exercise and move freely.

And, even better, at the moment two cute calves –Brie and Vienna –are also sharing this bovine luxury.

“The girls know me, and I can tell from 500 feet away if they want something,” Rachel Lapp Kellogg says of the cows she helps take care of. Kellogg shares the farmhouse with her husband, Harry Kellogg; her sister Lydia Lapp; and Lydia’s daughter, Melissa.

And while the cows can relax, their human family doesn’t. For one thing, they make and sell unique homemade cheeses.

And forget all those pictures you’ve seen of zillions of cows being milked into big tanks to be transported to commercial dairies several miles away. There’s a reason the Lapps’ brochure calls the enterprise “the smallest dairy.” It’s an intimately run operation with family members working the rolling land, birthing the calves, pasturing and feeding the animals and milking the cows (by machine) twice a day.

This dairy farm is a quintessential example of the regional food movement that has growing appeal to the foodies who call themselves locavores. But that was not always the case.

Originally, the family worked with their parents and siblings on a 60-cow farm on land that belonged to them for more than 30 years. But in 2003, the herd and much of the land was sold. The family had noticed the growing interest in fresh food.

“And we wanted more contact with our animals and more contact with people,” explains Rachel.

Lapp Farm Dairy is licensed to sell raw milk by the State of New York but sells several other made-on-site pasteurized dairy products, as well.

There is plain yogurt and vanilla yogurt (sweetened with local maple syrup). There’s “Cassadaga’s Cow” feta-style cheese and, unusually, a sharp cheddar cheese that’s made from raw milk and aged more than 90 days in the “cave.” (The longer cheese is aged, the sharper.)

And there are the best-selling cheese curds (small chunks of milk solids, drained of whey but not yet pressed into cheese), that are sold plain or flavored, enjoyed as a snack when eaten out of hand but sometimes fried or mixed with mashed potatoes.

Each of the products is unique, made with its own distinctive culture, under different temperature conditions. It took three years to perfect the recipes on the kitchen stove and the products are sold only from one place — the small shed attached to the barn. All of them require extensive hand labor and are made without chemicals, hormones or antibiotics.

That means they are not necessarily as cheap as dairy products sold in a supermarket. “Foods made on a small scale and with respect to the creation cost more than their commercially produced counterparts,” as the Lapp brochure says.

And though customers come from as far away as Batavia or Buffalo, the family says that the operation will stay small and that they will continue to do all the work themselves. They also will continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

“We are the manufacturer, the retailer and the consumer,” Harry Kellogg says only half jokingly. “We are an example of direct marketing; there is no middle man.”

True enough. And interestingly, only about 100 years or so ago, that’s the way the whole food marketing system operated.

For more information to to www.lappfamily.com or call 595-3210.

jokun@buffnews.com