A weekly series about our food and sustainable agriculture.
Dairyman Garry Hansen was born and raised on his father’s dairy farm in Mulino, and from an early age he loved working with the gentle Jersey cows in his father’s herd. He and his older brother worked on the farm feeding the calves, cleaning pens and helping with milking before they gobbled down their breakfast and ran off to school in the morning. Garry said it taught them responsibility from a very young age, remembering that he also had to come home after school and do chores if he wanted go back for sports practices.
His older brother joined their father’s business after graduating from college and Garry followed shortly thereafter, though within a few years it became clear that the business couldn’t support three families. Garry struck out on his own, renting land nearby and starting his own herd of Jerseys and selling their milk to a processor.
The fact that he couldn’t count on a consistent price for his milk due to the volatility of the dairy market nearly drove him out of business at one point, so to save his cows he decided to investigate becoming a processor and distributor of his own milk. Luckily for him another dairy was selling its equipment at a price that made it possible for him to start bottling. Another stroke of luck came when the old dairy farm next door to his family’s farm came up for sale, and Lady-Lane Farm was born.
Named after a favorite cow and the long lane that winds through the property to the appropriately monikered Milk Creek, he soon found a following for his Jersey milk at local farmers’ markets. His milk developed a following not only for the superior quality of Jersey milk , but because he uses a vat pasteurization process that kills any harmful bacteria but leaves many of the beneficial enzymes intact. Another draw is the old-fashioned glass bottles he uses, which customers vastly preferred over plastic jugs.
Asked how he feels about his cows, he looks down at his hands and swallows hard.
“I suppose second to family they’re the most important thing in my life. My whole life literally revolves around them,” he said. “What motivates me and drives me is the challenge of developing and raising these little girls from the time you see the baby calf hit the ground when she comes out all wet to the time she gives her birth to her first calf at two years of age to the time they become mature cows.”
Text by Kathleen Bauer