Milking the charm

Limestone Organic Creamery puts an old spin on innovation

Photo: 
The Creamery store offers a quaint atmosphere.
The Creamery store offers a quaint atmosphere.
Photo: 
Photo: 

While the flavour of Limestone Organic Creamery’s milk is fresh, their approach to farming is time-tested and traditional.

In 1989, Kathie Groenewegen and her husband Francis took over running the business from Kathie’s parents, whose family began farming the land in 1967. The couple switched to organic farming practices in 1998.

When we arrived at the Creamery shop it felt like stepping back to a simpler time when things were homemade. Old-style furnishings with chipped paint decorate the shop, and butter was browning on the stove for ginger cookies.

We immediately felt cozy and welcome.

Produced by cows at the small family-owned farm just outside of Kingston, the milk is processed and even bottled there. It can also be delivered right to your door.

For around 240 Kingston area families, this is the case once per week. The Groenegewen couple, along with their two children Patrick and Olivia, serve Kingston with the only farm-fresh milk delivery in this region.

According to Kathie, running a milk delivery service in Kingston fits with the local foodie culture.

“Kingston is a really progressive city when it comes to the local food movement, and the slow food movement and organic food,” she said. “We thought that it would be an ideal spot to have a home delivery service.”

Kathie said the organic and local food movements are very important to the Groenewegen family, which is why they decided to run their farm organically. They process the milk from their cows in the creamery, which they opened in the spring of last year.

“We get to actually oversee the whole process right from the seed going into the ground to harvesting the crop, and feeding the cows and then milking and taking our milk down to plant ... and selling it right directly to our neighbours and consumers,” Kathie said.

“There are no hormone residues in the milk and I think that’s pretty important, so we’d like to see the map dotted with little processing plants again like it used to be,” she said.

Nostalgia seems to be a recurring theme with the Limestone Creamery and farm.

At first, we were almost overwhelmed by the number of fresh, homemade products displayed in the homey shop. Limestone’s organic milk isn’t the only product sold at the store.

They also offer fresh baked goods, ice cream from Kawartha Dairy Company and Slicker’s, homemade pasta from Pasta Tavola and a variety of spices and ingredients.

When the Groenewegens decided to open the store, they wanted to include their friends and neighbours in the endeavour by giving them a place to sell their products.

“It helps bring people into the store,” Kathie said, “and I think it also helps [the farmers] to have an outlet.”

Eventually we decided to try the chocolate milk, a choice praised by other shoppers. The thick and creamy whole milk was, without a doubt, the greatest milk we had ever tasted.

This is apparently a common reaction from Limestone’s customers and one that inspires the Groenewegen’s to continue selling their own milk.

“People tell us every day how much they love it and the mothers tell [us] that their kids won’t drink anything else. We have so many young families that are consuming our milk that we feel really good about that,” she said.

Kathie said she suspects that the glass bottles their milk comes in may have something to do with the flavour.

“Those glass bottles keep the milk colder and I think the milk actually lasts longer and it just tastes better when you don’t have the flavour of the carton or the plastic bag,” she said.

The bottles have more benefits than just improving the flavour of the milk.

“We chose [them] because we can reuse them at least twenty times and it will save a lot in a landfill,” Kathie said.

Kathie said there’s been much focus placed on ultra-high temperature pasteurization within milk production. This process ensures that milk can sit for 42 days, she said.

“We just can’t figure out why you’d want to drink milk that’s 42 days old, you know?” Kathie said.

Some of their customers even prefer their milk non-homogenized, meaning that the cream separates and sits on top of the milk.

“You can either skim it for your coffee or shake it up and mix it in and a lot of people like it and it has one less process on it,” she said. “I guess [it’s enjoyed] by people that remember milk the way it used to be. They get sort of nostalgic.”

Although the Creamery is known for its old-fashioned atmosphere, it recently won a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation.

“It seems kinda crazy to innovate something that’s already been done but I guess it’s something that hasn’t been done for a long time so it is kind of new to sell milk directly,” she said.

According to Kathie, around 18 local businesses receive weekly deliveries of the Creamery’s freshest milk.

The Creamery also supplies dairy products for St. Lawrence College’s culinary program.

The folks down at the Creamery provide more than just milk that’s good to the last drop.

Sharing with the local community is the most important part of running the farm, Kathie said.

“My favourite part is that we can actually produce something that’s valuable and that’s good for everyone,” Kathie said.

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