This Fifth-Generation Dairy Farm Brought Back These Awesome Glass Milk Bottles

Dairy runs in the family.

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How do you bring back a beloved tradition? Start with five generations of dairy farmers. Mix in a large herd of Jersey cows grazing lush Pacific Northwest grass. Add a dash of determination. Pour into historical containers and voila! Milk in glass bottles.

Larry and Debbie Stap, who own Twin Brook Creamery in Lynden, Washington, hit upon the idea of reviving glass bottles in 2006 when their daughter Michelle and her husband, Mark Tolsma, decided to join the operation.

“We’ve always sold our milk to a large co-op,” Larry says. “After Michelle and Mark joined us, we decided not to increase the size of our herd, but to find a niche that would allow us to remain a small family-owned dairy.”

A year of research began their journey toward bottling the milk from their 200-cow Jersey herd.

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Just finding glass bottles was a challenge. Only one manufacturer in North America makes milk bottles and it’s in Ontario, Canada.

“Our inventory of bottles and caps is incredible,” Larry says. “Though we recycle and reuse our glass bottles, many customers keep them because of our logo. We figure it’s good advertising to have in people’s homes, even when the bottle is used as a flower vase.”

The milk inside the bottle has put Twin Brook Creamery on the dairy map as well. Higher in protein and butterfat compared to other dairy breeds, Jersey milk is rich and smooth. The Staps use no hormones and they gently pasteurize the milk at a low temperature. Their milk isn’t homogenized either, allowing cream to float naturally to the bottle top. Short expiration dates ensure freshness.

They sell whole milk, 1%, 2%, fat-free, half-and-half and cream. They also produce chocolate milk that’s so rich and creamy it’s almost like a milkshake, as well as savory eggnog to sip from October through December. Supporting local businesses keeps them alive; this is why it’s so important to spend on Small Business Saturday. 

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The Staps’ day begins at 2:30 a.m. in preparation for first milking at 3. Milk is processed six days a week, with Sundays off. The Staps’ son Mike is creamery manager who oversees the bottling room. Inside, workers fill two bottles at a time, though a six-bottle filler will soon be installed to increase production speed. The interval from milking to store shelf is 48 hours.

“Few people process their own milk nowadays because it is labor intensive and a slow process,” says Larry. “But we feel blessed to be able to offer quality milk to families in our region.”

It took time to establish Twin Brook Creamery and spread the word. “People don’t instantly gravitate to new things,” Debbie says. But they now average sales of nearly 60,000 various-sized glass bottles a month through 100 northwest Washington stores.

Larry and Debbie—along with Michelle and Mark, who are raising four children as the farm’s sixth generation—are proud of their dairy heritage. Larry says, “It’s rewarding to share this farm with our family. History is here.”

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Originally Published in Farm & Ranch Living