Jackson County dairy farm adapts to changing trends

MAQUOKETA, Iowa-- Twice a day, Heather Moore is in the barn, milking her 50 cow herd. It's something she's done virtually every day for the last five years.

"I had done it," she says. "I had worked on farms, but it was a whole different ballgame to own the farm. And we had two kids under the age of four at the time."

Five years ago, Heather and her husband Brandon decided to add Holstein cows to their farm. In 2009, they started their own farm with beef cattle.

"It's been interesting, that's for sure," Brandon says.

The Moore have continued to grow their farm and their family over the years. They now have three boys and a girl, goats, chickens, cats and dogs on their nearly 80 acres outside of Maquoketa, Iowa.

Life on the farm has come with its challenges.

"While we were getting used to the dairy cows and the dairy farming was when the price of milk dropped essentially in half," Heather says.

In 2015, milk prices plummeted and Heather says they had to make a change.

"When you're doing something that you really love and you're passionate about, you have to take the good with the bad," she says.

So the Moores started shipping some of their milk to a creamery in Wisconsin to have it made into artisan cheddar cheese. They even started renting a storefront in town to sell it out of.

"We sold our first 700 pounds of cheese in five weeks," Heather says.

That was in 2017. They've now moved into a bigger store on Platt Street, selling their cheese alongside other local and family-owner products.

"In today's world, you can't think from 50 years ago," Brandon says. "You gotta find a niche or be diverse or come up with new and inventive ways to make it more profitable."

The Moores say the drop in dairy prices hasn't effected them as much as some farmers. They credit that to the diversity on their farm. Brandon also works full-time still

"We got our niche," Brandon says, "and everyone can come up with a niche, whether it's selling it as cheese or... We tried goat yoga for crying out loud!"

The Moores say they want to expand in the next two to five years by starting their own creamery. They want to craft even more kinds of cheese from their cows' milk.

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