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Ocheesee Creamery named 2011 Agricultural Innovator

BY JUDY LUDLOW Calhoun County Extension Director Agriculture in the panhandle is rooted in tradition and family. It is also increasingly innovative and diverse. North Florida is home to a variety of farms producing peanuts, soybeans, cotton, hay, sugarcane, corn, honey, timber, beef, fish, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This year, University of Florida NW Extension Agriculture Agents and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida selected and honored agricultural innovators from across the panhandle. This first annual event recognized nine outstanding farms, and we are proud to announce that the 2011 Agricultural Innovator for Calhoun County is the Ocheesee Creamery! This third generation dairy is one of Calhoun County’s two remaining dairy farms, and one of only about 140 dairies in Florida. Because of fluctuating milk prices, a challenging economy, and the loss of small dairies since the 1990s, the Wesselhoeft family realized they needed to change their current operation if they were to survive. Thus began their vision of one day pasteurizing, processing, and selling their own milk products on site, rather than shipping it elsewhere. After years of perseverance and mountains of paperwork, the Ocheesee Creamery became a reality in 2009. The Wesselhoefts built a combination processing plant and storefront on their farm. The store has large glass windows so customers can view the bottling operation. The milk is sold in glass bottles. They chose glass bottles because they feel the milk tastes better, and they are recyclable. They currently process fresh milk (regular, low fat, and chocolate), cream, butter, and yogurt with more goods such as ice cream and cheese to follow. Ocheesee Creamery is the only dairy in Florida that makes butter, and the only to use recyclable glass bottles. Their products can be purchased directly from the Ocheesee Creamery, or from local farmer markets, and grocery stores. Theirs is a great example of a value-added agricultural commodity. The Wesselhoefts are proud of their farming heritage and mindful of how their management affects the community and the environment. Their land stewardship, dedication to agriculture, and dedication to community is evident. Over the years many 4-H youth, citizens, Extension clients and agents have toured this dairy operation, and they are eager to promote an awareness and appreciation of agriculture. Thank you and congratulations, Ocheesee Creamery! The Calhoun County Extension Service is part of the statewide Extension Service of the University of Florida, and is a partnership between county, state, and federal governments. Its mission is to provide service and education in agriculture, natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and 4-H youth development, to help us improve our lives, communities, and environment. If you have any questions, please call us at 850-674-8323, visit us at 20816 Central Ave East, Blountstown, or visit our website at http://calhoun.ifas.ufl.edu/. University of Florida “The Foundation for the Gator Nation” an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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