The Ewenity Dairy Co-op was founded in 2001 when the decision was made to expand the availability of milk for our dairy products to sources beyond our own flock. The members of Ewenity Dairy Co-operative believe the viability and sustainability of the family farm is the backbone of rural communities. We are stewards of our land and are committed to a positive environmental impact. We are respectful of our sheep and grateful for the industry they provide. We believe they should enjoy life, indulging in natural behaviours as outlined by the Five Freedoms practiced by farming communities in the UK.
The Five Freedoms are as follows:
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst.
2. Freedom from fear and disease.
3. Freedom from discomfort.
4. Freedom from pain and injury.
5. Freedom to express natural, normal behaviour.
By providing our animals with the five freedoms, they tend to be healthier and the need for medication rare. We are committed to the production of wholesome milk from healthy, happy ewes. From the beginning we have only included farms who follow the same Five Freedoms guidelines that we do, and that also follow the guidelines set out by Local Foods Plus. Local Food Plus (LFP) is an award-winning non-profit organization that certifies local sustainable food producers who reduce or eliminate pesticide use, treat their animals well, conserve soil and water, protect wildlife habitat, provide safe and fair working conditions, reduce energy use, and sell locally wherever possible. We hope that between these two guiding forces we ensure that all of our products from the dairy are of the highest quality possible.
Our aim is to support the family farm, milking 100 – 120 ewes, enough to give each family a ‘fair’ income. With these numbers, each family is able to care for the flock and have a workload sustainable within the family. As well, by keeping numbers small we are able to track our milk source from ewe to product, as each family we work with initials and dates every pail of milk produced. The milk is then frozen, allowing the sheep to follow their natural rhythms (generally 6 – 8 months of the year) yet providing milk to be available for use throughout the year. It also means that the milk is transported from the far-flung farms every few weeks rather than daily or weekly, reducing our carbon footprint and reducing transportation costs.
While there have been a few changes since the beginning, as of 2011 our co-op consists of 10 farms in addition to our own, located across south-western Ontario, and three more will join us later this year. Several have been with us for many years, and with all we have a strong working relationship ensuring that there is care and consistency throughout to ensure a quality beginning to the dairy process. As several of our members are Amish and Mennonite, they work even harder than most modern industrial farms, given they are often working with a minimum of contemporary technology!
Unless noted otherwise, each farm in our co-op breeds British Milk Sheep or crosses thereof, with their original breeding stock coming from our farm. Since the culling of Britain’s sheep in the wake of the BSE scare of 2000, and more importantly, the Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2006, our co-op has one of the largest concentrations of purebred British Milk Sheep in the existence.
Mervin and Lydiann Streicher
The Streicher family of Tiverton in the Kincardine area has been with Best Baa Dairy since 2002, our longest running partnership. They are an Amish family, with 4 children living at home and 2 older sons who are married and beginning family farms of their own. Their children’s names are Robert, Rachel, Rebecca, Wayne, Marilyn, and Susan who range in age from 12 to 22 years. Rachel is a teacher, but lives at home. The Streicher’s are a jolly family who love to laugh. When Eric picks up their milk, he enjoys visiting with the family and often shares a joke or two with Mervin. They currently milk 110 – 115 ewes on their 135 acre farm. Mervin, Rebecca, Marilyn and Susan do most of the milking. In addition to their flock, the Streicher’s have a certified organic vegetable garden and also plant field crops. Their produce can be purchased at the Kincardine Farmer’s Market. Lydiann makes fabulous chutney! Their favourite part of farming is spending time milking the sheep, while their least favourite is cleaning out the barn!
The Livingston’s (Liz, Tim, Tyler and Kyle) farm in Sunderland, Ontario. Liz had been milking an older English breed of dairy sheep called Dorset’s for several years before joining Ewenity Dairy Co op in 2004. Liz continues to milk Dorset’s and Dorset/BMS crosses (between 75 and 100 ewes each year) with occasional help from her husband and son Tyler. Their 60 acre farm focuses on their sheep but they also keep a few chickens.
Charlotte and Dave Nicholson
Dave and Charlotte Nicholson are raising 6 children (Roger, Bruce, Josh, Mike, Kendralyn and Katlyn) on their farm in Woodville, ON. Feeding the sheep, caring for the lambs and doing the milking is shared between Charlotte, Dave, Mike, and Katlyn. In addition to milking their 46 – 75 ewes, Charlotte spins the wool from her sheep, which she then uses for knitting and weaving. The Nicholson’s appreciate their farming lifestyle for the opportunity to work together as a family. Their least favourite farming chore is washing the buckets for milk storage.
Eli and Arlene Kuepfer
The Kuepfer’s are a young Amish family from the Millbank area north of Kitchener, with 5 children ages 4 weeks to 7 years (Catherine, Nathan, Merlin, Jonas and Hannah). The Kuepfer’s milk 75 ewes and care for them on their 100 acres of land. They have been milking for just 2 years and hope to expand to milking 100 ewes which they will keep in addition to the beef cattle they raise. Husband and wife share in milking the sheep, caring for the lambs and doing the general chores. Both are grateful to be able to work at home and with their family. But, if they could change one thing, they would gladly do away with the bills!
Jonathan and Sarah Kuepfer
Jonathan and Sarah have 12 children and 5 grandchildren. 9 of their children are living at home and have a number of professions including schoolteacher, mechanic, and carpenter. Their 150 acre Amish farm is also located in the Kincardine area near Lake Huron, close by the Streichers. Their farm is used to raise beef cattle, hens, pigs, horses, and veal calves, as well as fruits and vegetables. The men concentrate on the livestock operations, while the women deal with the fruits and vegetables, which they sell through their farm-gate store. They hope to expand their milking operation from 28 ewes to 80 in the coming years, with the sheep milking venture creating opportunities for their youngest sons.
Earl and Eva Kuepfer
Earl is Eli Kuepfer’s brother, and Earl and Sarah have 5 young children (David, Martha, Elizabeth, Ida, and Sarah) ranging in age from 2 to 7 years. Earl shares 200 acres near Millbank with their other brother, David. Their farming is divided between a herd of 325 pigs and 80 sheep for milking. They hope to expand their milking flock to 120 ewes. Earl appreciates that his farming business gives the family an opportunity to work together, and creates hands-on experience for his children.
David and Eva Kuepfer
David and Eva are an Amish couple with 3 children (Mary Ellen, Louise, and Murray), and they live with their parents near Linwood. David works with his brother Earl, sharing their 200 acre family farm. Both families work together to accomplish all the chores. The Kuepfer children are especially fond of the lambs and take great pride in caring for them.
David S. and Eva Kuepfer
This David and Eva have 117 acres in the Kincardine area which they raise their sheep upon. They currently milk 42 ewes but hope to expand their flock to 50. David and Eva both enjoying milking and the time they spend working together. David is particularly interested in keeping the sheep healthy and clean, and Eva’s favourite time is the lambing season when she can offer extra care to the mothers and their lambs. David and Eva share the sentiments of most farmers that cleaning the pens is the least enjoyable aspect of the job.
James and Selema Martin
The Martins are a Mennonite family who joined the co-op in 2010, when they purchased the original Best Baa Farm founding flock from Eric and Elisabeth Bzikot. James and Selema have a 150 acre farm near Mount Forest, where they are raising 7 children, aged 3 to 15 (Nelson, David, Jason, Philip, Earl, Eileen, and Eugene). In addition to their sheep, the Martins also keep 50 sows and raise their piglets until they reach market weight. James, Selema, and Eileen do most of the milking, while the lambs are lovingly cared for by Selema. Everyone shares the rest of the general chores. James appreciates being able to work together with his family, and that sheep are small and gentle creatures with which even his youngest children may safely work. The least favoured aspect of farming for all family members is cleaning out the pens, which they still do using traditional hand forks!
Doug and Amanda Jantze
The Jantze’s farm is west of Millbank near Newton. With the help of their 7 children (Judith, Juliet, Janelle, Johanna, Jeremy, Jolene, Jacob) ages 20 years to 10 months old. Everyone helps with the chores and milking but the primary care givers are Doug, Juliet, Janelle and Johanna. The Jantze’s are Amish and also operate a business making horse drawn vehicles. Their preferred farm work would be to care for their animals with the exception of cleaning out their pens!
Leroy and Viola Ebersol
Leroy and Viola Ebersol joined our group of producers in 2010. They farm 50 acres and are helped in their efforts by their five children: Anita, Keith, Aaron, Roman and Marcus. Viola and the children (especially Anita) look after the dairy sheep. They work hard during the busy lambing season, ensuring that the ewes and their new-born lambs are cared for, and then later, with the milking. Leroy also has a herd of organic pigs. Their care keeps him busy. Once the spring arrives, Leroy cultivates the land with his Belgian heavy horses. He particularly enjoys field work as he finds this such a quiet and relaxing way of farming.
Allan and Melinda Allbrecht
Allan and Melinda Allbrecht joined our group of producers in 2010. They live in Bervie with four daughters, the two other sons have left home. One of them runs the farm store in Bervie. The family produces organic soft fruit and tomatoes. The green houses need lots of work, as the tomatoes are harvested over a long period; from spring to autumn. One of the girls, Martha, helps with the sheep. In the winter, Melinda and her daughters love quilting and sewing, they have made some beautiful quilts.