The new Hastings Dairy Store, located on Vermillion Street at 17th Street. John Malone purchased the Hastings Coop Creamery and the Hastings Dairy Store last May. Photo by Bruce Karnick
Dairy Store, Creamery vital to small family farms

By Brooke Shepherd

The month of June in the U.S. has been recognized as Dairy Month since 1939, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. Hastings is home to a local dairy operation, which has become unique in today’s market.

Small familyowned dairies have been disappearing in Minnesota due to the overproduction of milk by large industrial dairy operations. The United States Department of

See DAIRY, Page 5 Agriculture (USDA) found that dairy farms have seen consistent decline, reporting a 55% nationwide decrease in dairy farms from 2002 to 2019.

The Hastings CoOp Creamery was founded in 1913 as a butter manufacturer and began bottling milk in 1920. The milk used is all sourced from local farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Justin Malone, a dairy farmer who manages Valley View Farms in Hastings, purchased the creamery and the Hastings Dairy Store last May. The milk from Valley View Farms is bottled at the Hastings Creamery into chocolate milk, heavy whipping cream, buttermilk, and other fluid products. Malone said they have plans to expand into cheese and butter and he is in the process of purchasing a small cheese plant.

“We’re hoping by end of July or midAugust we will have a line of organic cheeses that we will be marketing through our Hastings Creamery Organic label brand that we’re trying to build,” said Malone. “We’re also working with some gentlemen about getting our own butter made. We’re trying to get a whole line of products with the Hastings brand basically.”

The Valley View Farms products are available at the Hastings Dairy Store and at about 30 grocery stores, though Malone said they continue to grow.

Malone said he has milked cows all his life, and he currently works with help from his wife, Marea Malone, and four fulltime employees. There are also some parttime employees in the summer when it’s the busier season. The Malone’s have 11 children together, and some of the older children help on the farm. The family lives in Otter Tail, which is over 200 miles north of Hastings.

“A lot of the time my day starts at 4 a.m. and I hit the road to Hastings, get back at 8 or 9 at night,” said Malone. “It’s been a little bit of a challenge but we’re getting things straightened out and we’re implementing new software and other things to help us keep track of everything in the creamery and the dairy store.”

As new owners, Malone said his family is very thankful to the people of Hastings for supporting the creamery.

“The community has been nothing but helpful with things that we’ve needed,” said Malone. “I hope that the city of Hastings can understand how important the creamery is to small dairy farms. We won’t exist as these small farms without an outlet like the creamery to market our milk.”

According to Malone, smaller farms can’t compete with the corporate farms that have thousands of cows, and his business depends on the support of the town. He can then support other local dairy farmers and improve the creamery to be able to handle a larger capacity of milk. Malone planned to implement better cooling equipment and another silo.

On Valley View Farm, the Malones milk about 200 cows of various breeds. The population size depends on the time of year. They are looking to potentially get more cows because Malone’s oldest son, who is 19 yearsold, has shown an interest in farming.

Malone said one of his favorite things about farming is seeing the improvements in the cows’ genetics to end up with a quality product. He said: “To me it’s very fulfilling to produce a high nutrient product like milk that people can enjoy in many different things whether it’s an ingredient that they need for a recipe, ice cream or drinking milk.”

June 29, 2022