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Minnesota family creates a connection between cows and consumers

Kaitlyn Riley

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From cow to creamery, the Metz Family brings a full dairy experience for visitors on the family farm north of Rushford, Minn.

The history of Metz’s Hart-Land Creamery begins with Jeff Metz who started dairy farming in 1983 with 24 cows. Jeff married his wife, Mariann in 1985, and they moved to their current farm in Hart.

Through the years, the farm grew to a 220-cow herd. They knew they had to either expand or diversify when their four children, Alicia, Courtney, Brittany, and Nathan, all wanted to return as the second generation.

“We decided to expand and do the creamery rather than just adding more cows,” Jeff said.

The family researched their market area and noticed fresh cheese curds were missing in southeast Minn. They added a cheese plant on the farm in August of 2014.

“We decided that’s where we would go, and people have been very supportive,” Mariann said. “They want to know where their food comes from. It’s right here. It never leaves our farm.”

Today, Metz’s Hart-Land Creamery offers more than 60 products between varieties of cheeses, gelato, meat sticks, honey, and more.

“There are different times of the year where one item is more popular than the other,” Jeff explained. “In the springtime, cheese is popular, but then we wanted to be able to start producing the gelato to get ready for summer sales. It helps us keep a flow going through the creamery.”

Those who visit the farm have the chance to not only witness the creamery production but also meet the animals behind the operation. Metz has all of the different breeds of dairy calves in hutches for families to see as well as a donkey and a pig. Additionally, they transformed farm and carnival equipment into a unique playground.

As fewer and fewer activities were available for entertainment in 2020, the farm became a welcome outlet.

“Once we got past the first couple weeks [of COVID-19], our phone started ringing,” Mariann said. “People were asking if we were open or if they could come out and play on the playground or see the calves. We started getting really busy. People would just be out driving and see our signs, or they would Google what to do in the area. We’ve been very happy with the turnout.”

Mariann also shared the story of a family who drove to Rushford to escape the unrest in the Twin Cities with months of protests.

“We had a woman call asking if she and her kids could come down,” she said. “She said she just had to get out of there and let her kids be able to be outside. She was here for probably three to four hours. They ended up watching us milk cows, and the kids were amazed. What we take for granted, other people are very happy to just come and hang out in the country.”

Their goals for the business go beyond boosting dairy sales.

“It’s making the connection between the cows and the end product,” Jeff said. “They can see where we make the cheese, and especially for the kids, you can see the light comes on.”

They also tell that story digitally through their website and active Facebook page.

Metz Hart-Land Creamery is offering an event to continue bridging the gap Saturday, Oct. 17, and Sunday, Oct. 18 with Pumpkins and Pizza on the Farm. In addition to seeing the production process, guests can buy Halloween pumpkins from local 4-H clubs while Trick or Treating among vendors.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.