Sassy Cow Creamery: a destination

John Oncken

It was just about 2 o’clock on Monday afternoon and the store at Sassy Cow Creamery  was jammed with young people and adults all waiting to order their ice cream cones.  The story was the same at 11 a.m. the previous Thursday.

In both cases I was visiting Sassy Cow Creamery getting information for this column.  I realized July was on its last legs and it had been a long time since I had written about July  being “Ice cream month.” 

Sassy Cow Creamery and Store is located about 7 miles north of Sun Prairie.

Besides, Sassy Cow Creamery,  located just four and a half miles north of my home, is  owned by two brothers, James and Robert Baerwolf  and is ‘where the ice cream is.’  Ten years ago they built a dairy processing plant to handle some of the milk from their two dairy herds.

Why an on-farm creamery?

"We believe that one of Wisconsin agriculture’s greatest assets is its diversity. It is our belief that all styles of farms should thrive and do well. It is an extension of this philosophy that brought about Sassy Cow Creamery,” the Baerwolfs explain. “There was a great amount of time and effort put into research prior to building the creamery. At one time, almost every community had a milk bottling or cheese plant located close by. Today most are gone. We believe that the timing was right once again for a local farmstead dairy. It is this core belief that determines how we manage Sassy Cow Creamery.”

Ten years later

A lot has happened since my first visit in 2008 to the facility then being built on County N straight north of Sun Prairie. I had known the Baerwolf family mostly from afar but knew they were outstanding dairy farmers. In fact, I had written a column about their cropping system (some 1,500 acres) some months earlier.  

James Baerwolf, one of the two brother owners of Sassy Cow stops by the creamery daily.

Brothers James and Robert Baerwolf are both UW-Madison Ag School graduates and are rather quiet individuals, not the bombastic, outgoing extroverts one often sees entrepreneurs portrayed as and they do things right on the farm and at the creamery. 

Sassy Cow milk began appearing on shelves in Madison stores in 2008 in organic and regular varieties and store dairy managers told me that it was selling well. Customers liked the idea of buying milk from a family farm owned by local farmers who actually farmed.

Sassy Cow Dairy milk is now available in stores in many parts of the state (see their web site) in organic and traditional forms in various bottle sizes. Soon Sassy Cow Ice Cream began appearing at area June Dairy Breakfasts and became a popular hit.

A crowd gathers

Last week I visited Sassy Cow Creamery at 11 o’clock on Thursday morning and was surprised to see 30 or more people in the store. Same on the next day Friday. Again, on Monday this week at 2 p.m. another big crowd. Note —  Mondays are often considered a “slow day” in many businesses — not at Sassy Cow. 

Little people like these from two families and their mothers in Sun Prairie and Columbus love the ice cream.

The group was from from Appleton and were members of Y-WAM  (Youth With A Mission) an evangelical interdenominational, nonprofit Christian, missionary organization. 

“One of our locations is not far away in Columbus, and we always stop here,” one teenager explained. “It’s so great.”

At the same time several adult couples from Madison were enjoying ice cream cones with several cars entering the parking lot as I was leaving. It’s great, but a bit surprising to see so many visitors craving ice cream and visiting Sassy Cow Dairy that is about seven miles away from a city (Sun Prairie), on a county road and surrounded by farmland. Of course, it’s the great ice cream, the people, the milk and the Wisconsin cheese also sold.  

Your choice

So what's the difference between Sassy Cow Creamery organic and traditional milk?  The web site Sassy Cow explains. 

Sassy Cow Creamery is an unusual dairy operation in that it produces both organic (250 cows) and traditional milk (600 cows  with the brothers owning and operating both dairy herds that supply milk to the creamery.  What are the differences between the two and which one should I be buying is a popular question?

Brenda Brace, ice cream manager, handfills a three gallon container with Blue Moon ice cream.

The brothers explain

“The cows are treated with the same care and compassion at both farms. The tools available for treating any health issues are different for each farm. As an organic herd, no antibiotics are administered to the cattle. In the traditional herd, if a health concern such as a swollen foot were to develop, we would use an antibiotic to cure the infection and reduce the swelling. The milk from that cow is withheld from the tank while she is being treated and then her milk is tested to be clear of any residue before her milk goes into the tank again.”

“The greatest difference between the two herds is the acreage the feed is grown on. The feeds grown for the organic herd are grown without the use of any herbicides or commercial fertilizers.”  

“The choice between traditional and organic milk comes down to one’s beliefs and personal preferences. Both milks are completely safe and nutritious. If you have chosen a lifestyle that includes organic products and practices, we fully support you. If organic isn't something that is important to you but still want to know where your milk comes from and are concerned about how those cows are cared for, we are committed to you as well.”

The ice cream

Brenda Brace is the ice cream manager at Sassy Cow and makes ice cream four, 10-hour days per week, in many flavors.  “I worked at Wisconsin Cheeseman for many years until they closed and have been making ice cream here for seven years,” she says.  

After assembling a half dozen three-gallon containers, Brace said the nine gallons of ice cream being made in the batch freezer were ready to package.

“You probably wouldn’t like this batch, it’s ‘Blue Moon, “ she says. “Kids love it, oldsters usually don’t eat it." 

She was right, but, then she added, “Vanilla is still the most popular flavor.”  Again I agreed.  

Blue Moon ice cream, kids love it, adults not so much.

I also know that hardly a day goes by that I don’t eat ice cream in one way or another:  as a  sundae, on a piece of pie or cake, breakfast cereal or as a milkshake. I blame my parents and family, they were also big ice cream eaters at home and at family reunions. Our refreshment was not beer or soft drinks, it was ice cream!

Of course you can get ice cream cones and dishes, milkshakes, sundaes and ice cream cakes at the Sassy Cow Creamery and store that is open seven days a week (Weekdays 10 - 8, Saturday  9-8, Sunday 11-7). 

Note - Sassy Cow offers public tours on Fridays June through August at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. The cost is $4 and includes a pint of milk. Get a ticket at the store, drive to the farm, visit the cows and see the milking parlor in about an hour. 

A destination

Sassy Cow Creamery is indeed a “destination.” Although certainly out in the country, it’s only a bit over a half hour from downtown Madison and maybe ten minutes from Sun Prairie. It’s a great family trip where you can see farms, cows and eat ice Cream.  What could be better?  

Oh yes, National Ice Cream Month is celebrated each year in July and National Ice Cream Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in July, in the United States. The celebrations were originated by Joint resolution 298 in Congress sponsored by Senator Walter Dee Huddleston of Kentucky on May 17, 1984.

John Oncken is owner of Oncken Communications. He can be reached at 608-572-0747, or email him at