Feltz family adds dairy store to growing farm
PLOVER - Everyone in the Feltz family helps their farm grow, including the four-legged members who outnumber the humans nearly 100 to 1.
Ken and Jackie Feltz started with just 50 cattle in 1995 when they took over Feltz Family Farms, across the street from what is now the Crossroads Commons retail center in Plover. Last fall, the farm added a robotic milking barn that has allowed them to push the herd to around 680 cows.
Along the way, the Feltz farm's growth has attracted attention. In 2014, the Feltzes teamed with nearby Blue Top Farms of Stevens Point to host Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, the largest agricultural event in the state with more than 48,000 visitors. Last year, Ken Feltz received the Master Agriculturist award, presented annually to top achievers in farming.
Now comes perhaps their most ambitious plan, as Feltz Dairy Store will open June 5 at 5796 Porter Drive. You’ll be able to buy food and products made in Wisconsin, from ice cream to milk to meat, tour the farm, or watch as your kids take a ride on a carousel with cows or try milking on a cow replica.
The store is the next step in how the Feltzes evolve into a sixth generation of family ownership in an industry that contributes more than $43.4 billion annually to the state's economy, according to figures from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Their herd is part of the 1.28 million dairy cows in the state, they and their employees are part of the nearly 80,000 state residents employed in the dairy industry, and the Plover business is among the 96 percent of farms in the state that are family-owned.
The new store is also an opportunity to bring even more family to the farm. Allison Eberhardt and Taryn Feltz, the Feltzes’ daughters, left their jobs in banking and as a registered nurse to join the farm. Son Jared already works on the farm and will be joined by wife Jenna Feltz, who is leaving after finishing this year as a teacher for Pacelli Catholic Schools. Youngest son Jake will join the operation after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he is studying agricultural business.
“It’s not something that we ever really pushed for,” Ken Feltz said of the children’s involvement in the farm. “It’s great we have the opportunity to bring everyone on board, and these changes will help the farm move ahead with the next generation.”
The store will sell milk, with glass bottles and plastic containers of white and chocolate, but it won’t come from the Feltz herd. What will be available from the farm are steaks, roasts, hamburgers and other Angus beef products from grass-fed cattle raised on the property. Other regional meat producers who will have products in the store include Hewitt Meat Processing in Marshfield and Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats in Wittenberg.
The farm has partnered with Fallin’ Pine Farm in Wisconsin Rapids to turn its milk into soap for sale at the store. Customers will be able to buy coffee from Ruby Coffee Roasters in Nelsonville, or a scoop of up to 16 flavors from ice cream store King Cone, which has locations in Plover, Wisconsin Rapids and Amherst.
Other products, primarily made from in-state producers, will include wine, beer, chocolates, baked goods, honey, candles and maple syrup.
The tours will allow people to get a closer look at the robotic milking barn, which Jared said holds about 100 cows. The animals are allowed to move between feeding and resting to being milked by one of two machines with little interaction from humans, which Jared Feltz said means the farm hasn’t had to add staff to its 30 employees.
“It’s a much more relaxed and quiet atmosphere for the cows, and the quality of milk has been very good,” he said.
Ken Feltz said it’s possible that the farm will retrofit other barns on the property for robotic milking in the future.
Store hours will start out from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The family plans a grand opening for the weekend of June 10-11. For more information on the Feltz Dairy Store, call 715-344-1293, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.feltzsdairystore.com. You can also find the business on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.