Southway of Springhouse Creamery able to find rare dairy success in Sussex County
PRINCETON — Retired banking executive-turned-dairy farmer Peter Southway of Springhouse Creamery in Fredon, shared his story on value-added innovations with farmers at a morning panel at the New Jersey Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in November.
Southway purchased land in the 1990s that had been farmed since the Civil War.
He was still involved in the banking world and began working at his new farm part-time in 1996.
By 2004 he decided he was ready to leave banking and began Springhouse Creamery.
“I did a little research and found out that in 1964 there were 3,500 dairy farms in New Jersey,” he said, adding, “but now, in 2018, there’s just 46 left and that number continues to shrink.”
He offered up some other statistics: in 1964, a farmer was paid $4.17 for a hundred pounds of milk.
“Today, I milk Jersey Cows which are high butter fat and higher protein, so we’re in top tier pricing in dairy commodity, and we’re at $17.66. You take that $4.17 and translate it through inflation it comes out to $37.96, the equivalent of 1964’s $4.17, so you can see the erosion that has occurred.”
Southway said demand for milk is down 30 percent in the United States. and said demand could be down as much as 60 percent because of U.S. population increases since 1964.
“We should have been a growth industry,” he said, “and instead we’re a dying industry and we’re a dying industry because milk is not milk anymore; we pasteurize, we homogenize, I spent seven years trying to get raw milk approved in New Jersey, and Farm Bureau supported us, but we couldn’t get it pushed through.
“My family and I took a look and said, ‘how do we get to the next step and bring a milk product to New Jerseyans that is real milk?’ ”
Southway said his creamery invested in its own Low Input, Low Impact, or LiLi, pasteurizer, right in their commerical kitchen.
“We built the room and started using batch pasteurization to make cheese in 2006. Last year we upgraded to do bottled milk,” he said, noting it’s a simple system.
“You run the milk into it, it goes to 164 degrees in 17 seconds and it comes out the other end pasteurized and ready to bottle, and it’s totally energy efficient. There’s no additional plumbing, it’s a very efficient heat exchanger, our milk goes in from our tank at 38 degrees and we bring it to 164 and we come out of Lilly at about 44 or 46 degrees. We’re using very little energy in the process. Since milk is fragile, we gravity feed it to LiLi and pump it once and then it goes into our bottling line, so we retain the flavor and characteristics of the milk just as if it came out of the cow,” Southway argued.
He noted with some pride of his small-but-growing Springhouse Creamery: “Very few people can tell the difference between LiLi’s milk and raw milk. But 100 percent can tell the difference between LiLi’s milk and store-purchased or processed milk,” Southway said. All Springhouse product goes out in glass bottles, and he said it’s been a hit with older customers who remember bottled milk as well as eco-conscious younger consumers who prefer reusable glass bottles to recyclable plastic jugs.
As the Springhouse team looks toward the future, Springhouse Creamery will soon be giving its cows feed without genetically modified grain.
“Once we do that, we’ll have gone to an entirely sustainable biodynamic loop. We use our cow manure to grow our next crop, we feed them a mix that is 75 percent grass-based, and the hardest part of going non-GMO will be the protein or soybean side of it.”
As busy dairy farmers, Southway said, “we have to stop and look around and say, ‘What is our goal going to be here?’ Is it production of milk per cow, or the profit per cow?’ We’re striving for profit, so we want to put it in the bottle, capture the best taste, deliver it to the customer and receive the best and most fair price.”