Kansas Farm Profile: Hildebrand Farms Dairy
by Tom King
Family operation Hildebrand Farms Dairy milks 150 cows near Junction City and took a major step into direct and niche marketing by establishing its processing plant in 2008. The farm encompasses nearly 2,000 acres around the Junction City and Chapman areas, which includes acreage dedicated to producing alfalfa, corn and soybeans for feed. Cows are milked twice daily, yielding over 1,000 gallons per day. Owner Kathy Hildebrand shares the following information and tips for those interested in direct‐marketing their farm products.
Hildebrand Farms Dairy (Junction City, Kansas)
‐ Milk: Whole, 2 percent, skim. Pasteurized and homogenized with no added hormones or antibiotics.
‐ Creamline milk: pasteurized, but not homogenized (cream on top).
‐ Flavored milk: chocolate, strawberry, root beer. Eggnog sold during holiday season.
‐ Cream, sold in quart bottles
‐ Beef, Holstein, processed by GTB Custom Meat Locker. On‐farm sales only.
‐ Soft‐serve vanilla ice cream. On‐farm sales only.
‐ Salted and unsalted sweet cream butter sold in select retail locations in addition to the farm store.
‐ Retail: On‐farm store sells all products. Certain products ‐ beef, cheese, ice cream ‐ are only available at the farm.
‐ Wholesale: Over 75 accounts, including independent grocers and chains such as Dillon’s (39 stores), Ray’s Apple Mart (5 stores), Hy‐Vee, Natural Grocers, and Price Chopper.
‐ Sales to institutions: None. “There are significant costs involved in purchasing the smaller jars and bottles required by institutions.”
‐ 100 percent of their milk is processed through the plant. They are currently bottling 79 percent with the excess being separated for the cream.
‐ Distribution: Self; three refrigerated trucks. Deliveries range east to Lawrence, west to Salina, south to Wichita/Emporia and north to Marysville.
‐ Reaching a broad audience across several Kansas markets with a limited advertising budget. The Hildebrands are third generation dairy farmers, who started with four Holstein milk cows. The farm received a permit to sell milk in 1930, which the family sold, in glass bottles, door‐to‐door in Junction City.
Marketing Tools, Tangible
‐ Local radio and TV advertising “When it comes to branding your farm, choose your identity carefully and then stick with it. We do local radio and TV spots and decided long ago to come up with a catchy jingle to associate with our products. Everybody in the community knows our song now ‐ people in supermarkets sing our jingle to our delivery drivers.”
‐ Glass bottles
The Hildebrand family has been in the dairy business for more than 80 years, and have been selling their milk in glass bottles since 2008. “Glass bottles keep milk fresher and colder, and there’s the ‘green’ aspect to consider.” Nostalgia also plays a part ‐ glass bottles remind people of simpler times.”
The farm’s tour season runs from March to October, offering five 45‐minute tours per week. “We tour about 1,000 people per year, and most of them stop at our store on the way out.”
The farm hosts a regular calendar of events during the March‐October season: scavenger hunts, make‐your‐own‐ice cream parties, and play days for kids. Their annual Spring Fling and Fall Festival events draw over 1,000 people each.‐ Events
Marketing Tools, Intangible
Website, Facebook. “We get quite a bit of useful input from our website and Facebook.”
“Since we are a long‐established family farm, most of the community knows us and buys our milk. When we first started wholesaling on a large scale, there was a lot of cold‐calling and pavement‐pounding. But now, a lot of the stores call us first, usually due to customer requests.”
Hildebrand offers a few tips for beginners to direct‐ and niche‐marketing of farm products. First, she says, find a good bank who understands what you want to do. And then plan carefully: “Gauging the market is a fine line. Be sure to realistically assess what you can do versus what your customers need.”
**This Farm Profile is an excerpt from Finding Your Niche, A Marketing Guide for Kansas Farms, published in January 2013 by the Kansas Rural Center. You may CLICK HERE to view the guide’s full Table of Contents and print or download other profiles and resource documents. Finding Your Niche: A Marketing Guide for Kansas Farms offers a great starting point for envisioning the potential your farm has to increase and respond to local demand.
To receive a printed and bound copy of the 200+ page guide, please order here or contact the Kansas Rural Center at 785-873-3431. A limited number of copies are available for a suggested fee of $25 to help cover printing, shipping and handling costs.