Organic Dairy Farms
Straus Family Organic Dairy Farm — Where It All Started
The Straus family legacy started in 1941 with Straus Family Dairy Farm in the small town of Marshall, CA, along the shores of Tomales Bay on the Northern California Coast.
Known for its mild, coastal climate, pristine coastal grassland, and fresh marine air — with virtually no pollution from traffic or factories — the area is a quiet escape from city life. For some, the seasons can prove confusing. Summer air is cooled by daily, sometimes constant fog, and the grass is dried up. Winters are cool, lush, green, foggy and wet. No matter what people think, cows excel in this climate.
A Straus cow’s life isn’t complicated. The nearly 300 Straus organic dairy cows (Jersey, Holstein, and Jersey-Holstein cross breeds), roam 500 acres of pasture during the day and, when night falls, they sleep on cow mats with natural bedding in an open barn.
To avoid the risk of infections from outside, the cows are in a closed herd. This means that purchased animals are never brought onto the farm. The cows are never treated with hormones or antibiotics. Their balanced, vegetarian diet consists mostly of fresh pasture grasses, silage, and hay, as well as purchased animal feeds that are 100% certified organic and verified non-GMO.
Animal welfare is a critical element of the Straus Farm’s philosophy — Straus cows are treated well and are given a great deal of affection.
Expanding Organic Milk Suppliers
Straus Family Creamery currently buys certified organic, non-GMO verified milk from eight certified organic family farms in Northern California: the two Tresch family dairy farms, the Hughes, Correia, Brazil, Silacci, and Mendoza dairies, and Cypress Lane Ranch, ensuring an adequate supply of certified organic dairy products of exceptional quality. This relationship strengthens the community of family farms in Marin and Sonoma Counties by providing stable pricing as well as strong personal alliance with each milk supplier.
Tresch Family Farms
With almost 2,100 acres and 900 Holstein, Jersey, and Jersey-Holstein cross breed milking cows, the Tresch Family Farms, located in beautiful Sonoma County, is Straus Family Creamery’s largest milk supplier. Joe and Kathy Tresch own the farm, working alongside their three adult children Joey, Lindsay, and Lydia. Joe and Kathy are deeply connected with their land. In 1995, they started the conversion to organic and in 1996, their cows became the second certified organic herd in California.
The Tresch family has been in the California dairy business since Joe’s family emigrated from Switzerland to California in the 1870s. The family’s journey led them to their current location in Petaluma, where Joe’s grandmother, Olympia Nonella Tresch, arrived as a 15-year-old with her family in 1905. They also brought two Holsteins, tied to the back of a springboard wagon. After Joe’s father passed away, he purchased the 320 acres from his stepmother in 1988 and leased an adjacent 1,189 acres.
The leased acreage brought Joe and the Straus family together when, in 1988, the City of Santa Rosa attempted to acquire the leased land to create a sewage reservoir. Joe and Kathy fought this plan and found allies in the Straus family, active members of the Friends of Estero organization, which tried to prevent the creation of the reservoir. After six years, they succeeded in saving the valley, and in 1996, the Tresches won the Sierra Club’s Environmentalists of the Year Award.
Joe had always been committed to a pasture-based and herbicide-free operation and followed numerous organic farm practices. When the Creamery needed more milk and the Tresches wanted to transition to organic, the collaboration was a natural one. The values that began with their great grandmother and nurtured by their parents are alive and thriving in the current generation of the Tresch family.
In addition to the dairy, Kathy Tresch, alongside her daughters, runs Olympia’s Apple Orchard on one of the two Tresch farms. The certified organic orchard grows more than 50 varietals of apples that are sold at farmers’ markets and local roadside fruit stands.
Hughes Family Dairy
Owners Richard and Marilyn Hughes have been in the dairy business for more than 50 years. Hughes Dairy, also known as Westview Dairy, is an organic dairy located in Bodega with about 191 Jersey cows on a 182-acre farm. Jersey cows are much smaller than Holsteins; however, their milk is known for its wonderful flavor, high quality and richness in protein, butterfat, and milk solids.
Unlike most Sonoma County dairy farmers, the Hugheses didn’t grow up on their grandparents’ ranches, or even their parents’ farm. Richard grew up as a self-described “city boy” in the San Bruno/ Millbrae area. However, a summer spent on his aunt and uncle’s farm in Nebraska led Richard to join the local 4-H program. His 4-H project, a Guernsey named Dusty, prompted Richard’s parents to move to Petaluma in 1961 and start their own dairy farm. Marilyn was a family friend and neighbor in Millbrae. Richard’s 4-H involvement inspired Marilyn to join Richard and transform from “city girl” to a farm gal.
In search of more butterfat, Straus Family Creamery approached the Hugheses in 2005. Shortly thereafter, the Hugheses converted their family dairy farm to certified organic and joined as a supplier. Richard strongly believes in making his cows as comfortable as possible. Organic practices support his commitment with their focus on proper animal welfare.
Correia Family Dairy
Owned by Kathy and Emanuel Correia, the Correia Family Dairy joined Straus Family Creamery as a family farm certified organic milk supplier in 2010. Located in Petaluma, their land has been used for dairy since the 1900s. Today, their organic herd consists of approximately 300 Holstein milking cows that graze on 300 acres of pasture, producing award-winning, high quality organic milk.
Kathy was born into the dairy business — her parents, Joe and Arminda Pinheiro, owned a dairy in Santa Rosa. Emanuel emigrated to the United States in 1974 from San Miguel in the Azores islands of Portugal. After marrying Kathy in 1982, he began his career in the dairy business working at Kathy’s parents’ dairy. In 1994, they acquired their own 120-cow herd from Louie Mazzoleni in Sebastopol, and leased the Petaluma dairy. In 2009, their long-standing dream came true when they finally purchased the dairy.
The Correias were already using many organic and sustainable practices and share the Creamery’s commitment to sustainable farming, making conversion to organic a natural transition.
Brazil Family Farm
The Brazil Family Farm, also known as Lakeside Dairy, is owned by brothers Will and John Brazil. They joined as a family farm certified organic milk supplier in 2012. Will and John run the operation with sister Connie. The picturesque farm is nestled in rolling hills on 1,200 acres of pastureland near Petaluma, and hosts an organic herd of more than 200 cows.
The land has been in dairy farming since the 1800s when the Jewell family bought 5,500 acres, parcel by parcel, with gold and recorded it in old county records, which can be viewed to this day.
In 1954, Will and John’s father, Joseph F. Brazil, bought the land from the Guglielmetti family, who had owned the property since 1904. The Brazil Family then planted their roots on this idyllic land, flanked by beautiful Laguna Lake. Siblings Will, John, and Connie are the third generation of Brazils in the dairy business, taking over management of the farm in the mid-1970s.
The family’s farming philosophy is to breed for health and quality. This aligns with organic dairy practices’ strong emphasis on prevention of disease and minimizing stress.
Third-generation dairy farmers Ben and Jessica Silacci took over ownership of the Silacci Dairy in Petaluma from Ben’s father. Their closed, organic herd consists of 85 Holstein and Jersey milking cows, with a goal of growing to approximately 150 cows. In addition to the dairy operation, the Silacci family grows about 25% of their own high-quality feeds (organic alfalfa and clover) and all of their organic pasture grasses and silage on 196 acres of rolling hills and pasture.
Ben Silacci started working at his father’s dairy farm directly after college. Jessica also grew up on a farm in Petaluma, where she was introduced to cattle at an early age. She got her first heifer (Dixie) in third grade, which proved instrumental in developing the family’s herd over the following decade.
Owned by Ben’s grandfather and great uncle, the Silacci land has been in dairy farming since the 1940s. They earned attention in the 1950s for their elevated barn, only the second such structure ever built in Northern California.
After seven years of progress, Ben and his father mutually agreed to an organic dairy transition, with Ben buying his father’s interest in the farm and taking over management of the operation with Jessica. This generational transition illustrates a family farm successfully moving toward a more viable and stable economic future.
In 2013, Straus Family Creamery asked the Silaccis to become a family farm certified organic milk supplier. The young family is a great fit, with their energetic and progressive take on farming, land stewardship, and animal husbandry.
The Mendoza Dairy is located on 1,200 acres at the Historic B Ranch on the Point Reyes Peninsula. The first dairy in the Point Reyes National Seashore to produce milk for Straus Family Creamery, they joined as a family farm certified organic milk supplier in 2014. Fourth-generation owner Jarrod Mendoza has a herd of 210 Holstein, Jersey and Jersey-Holstein crossbred milking cows. His wife, Kayla Mossi Mendoza has local dairying in her lineage, and their children are now the fifth-generation on this dairy, nestled near the Pacific Ocean.
While studying at Chico State, Jarrod’s father Joey Mendoza reluctantly sold the dairy’s herd in 2009, vowing to return someday. Two years later, Jarrod fulfilled his father’s wishes, revitalizing the dairy with the purchase of an organic herd of 120 milking cows and quickly transitioning it into a certified organic dairy. While working part-time at the university’s organic dairy farm, Jarrod saw the positive effect organic practices had in the health and the temperament of the cows. Pesticides were never used on the land, so the pastures were already practically organic, though not certified.
Jarrod says, “It is important to us to provide a local product coming out of the Point Reyes National Seashore and to have our milk be part of providing healthy products for our community.”
Cypress Lane Ranch
Cypress Lane Ranch became a family farm certified organic milk supplier in 2015. Tony Spaletta and his father Charles Spaletta manage the 772-acre dairy, where they milk 300 head of Holsteins. Named for the beautiful cypress-lined road winding through their organic pastures, Cypress Farm Ranch is an iconic dairy landmark along the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road and part of a greenbelt of historic farmland protected by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT).
The dairy’s rich family history goes back to 1933, when Eda Olivia Grossi Spaletta and Charles Leo Spaletta, the children of Swiss-Italian immigrants, bought the land and started Cypress Lane Ranch, raising their seven children on the property. Great grandson Tony Spaletta raised his children there, and today his son Jake helps on the dairy.
“We knew that in order to survive economically we needed to convert our dairy to organic. The demand was there and my Dad and I agreed it was the right thing to do. Once we made the decision to convert we knew we wanted to become one of the Straus family dairies. Straus has great products and we like their company and believe in what they stand for,” says Tony.