Edaleen Dairy in northern Whatcom County has been cranking out quality dairy products for their community since 1975. While products and techniques have changed on the farm, the hard work ethic and diligence of the Brandsma Family behind the dairy has stayed the same.
The farm was started in 1975 by Ed and Aileen Brandsma. (Now, you might be starting to catch where the name “Ed + aleen” Dairy was formed). Ed and Aileen started with 75 Holstein cows and a local co-op processed their milk until Ed got a wild hair and started wondering how they could bottle their own milk.
After a lot of research and some help from a processor from California, the Brandsma’s obtained their processing license and built their own processing plant. Their first sale was six half gallons of milk at their makeshift storefront.
Ed’s vision of making the farm more vertically integrated was a success. Being a producer-processor has advantages when it comes to product creation, which led him to his next adventure--ice cream.
In 1982, after more research and a couple tweaks in the processing plant Edaleen Dairy sold their first gallon of ice cream.
Edaleen Dairy has come a long way in the last 42 years. Now, the dairy milks about 1,600 cows, which produce nearly 47 million pounds of milk each year. With all that milk comes a lot of product which is why Edaleen has expanded into 5 retail stores and distributes to retailers from Lynden to Tacoma, and the Seattle metro areas.
Like all dairy farmers, the Brandsma’s are not only dairying, but also running a business. A successful one at that, as Ed Brandsma recently was awarded the Lifetime Business Achievement Award by the Whatcom Business Alliance awardee.
Ed says the key to a successful business is a good attitude.
“It’s what keeps you going,” Ed stated. “A bad attitude spreads through like wildfire to your other employees, but positivity goes a long way.”
With 45 unique flavors, everyone should be able to find one they enjoy. What makes their ice cream so special? According to Ed’s son-in-law, Mitch Moorlag, General Manager and 3rd generation on the farm, it’s all thanks to the freshness.
“The farm is less than 2 miles from the processing plant and not many ice cream companies can transform milk into ice cream within 20-24 hours of leaving the cow,” Mitch explained. “It’s what makes us special and so amazingly fresh.”
Mitch’s priorities as General Manger range from animal wellness and product quality control to sustainability. This position allows him to see every step of the process-from the farm to final product.
Being a producer-processor provides many benefits to Edaleen Dairy like the access to fresh milk and ability to brand themselves, but it also brings its own set of unique difficulties.
“The hardest part is balancing the supply of milk,” Mitch said. “We can’t just turn a spicket off when sales are down and turn it back on when they’re up, so that is a challenge we face day to day and week to week. We want to keep our customers happy and grow with them, but at the same time you can’t have too much milk without anywhere for it to go.”
While the product side and storefront has made its advancements, so has all the work going on behind the scenes.
In 2012, Edaleen Dairy installed an anaerobic digester to take a progressive step toward protecting the environment. The digester recycles cow’s manure and pre-consumer food waste, which would otherwise go into a landfill, by mixing both the elements together and heating them up to kill 99% of all the fecal coliform.
From here, the digester provides 3 new ‘products’. One being power, Edaleen sells the power the digester produces to Puget Sound Energy which is used to power about 400-450 homes each month. Another product is fiber which is a pathogen-free bedding that can be used in the barns for the cows to lie on.
“The cows love the bedding,” Mitch pointed out. “It’s comfortable for them and sustainable for us.”
The third and final by-product is a nutrient-based liquid which can be applied to Edaleen’s fields in irrigation form to grow crops that feed the cows.
Edaleen Dairy not only provides fresh dairy products to the local community, but also gives back to the people who have helped make them so successful. Whether it’s donating to the local food bank or sponsoring the Lynden’s annual Christmas parade or little league team, it’s important for them to be a part of their neighbor’s lives.
Edaleen Dairy is also an economic booster for the community. Providing more than 110 full-time positions which include on-farm work, as well as positions in their retail stores and processing plant.
“This community has been so supportive of us, the least we can do is give back to them,” Mitch stated. “Our neighbors have helped make us who we are and we wouldn’t be here without them.”
“Farmers, by nature, love the land and love their cows,” Mitch explained. “We, at Edaleen Dairy are no different. We’ll continue to take steps to be more environmentally-friendly while still producing the same quality products we always have.”
The next time you flip on a light switch or lick an ice cream cone, keep farms like Edaleen Dairy in the back of your mind.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at Edaleen Dairy on Facebook!