Straus Family Creamery Founder/CEO and Organic Dairy Farmer Albert Straus is the oldest son of Bill and Ellen Straus.
In the late 1970s, after completing his Bachelor’s degree in Dairy Sciences at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Albert Straus returned to his family’s dairy farm. Albert took over the management of the dairy farm with his father and quickly realized that innovative solutions were needed to secure the future of family farming in California and to maintain responsible stewardship of the land.
The Creamery began in 1994 when Albert Straus made a choice that had a lasting impact on the entire landscape of dairy farming in the United States. Today, Albert Straus, still oversees the dairy farm, getting up early every morning before heading to the office to manage daily operations.
Inspired by ethical and economic considerations, Straus converted his family farm to organic, becoming the first certified organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi River. While his peers thought, he had gone crazy, Straus had practical reasons for the shift — he and other family farmers were selling milk to local co-ops or regional processors that set the price for their milk, an amount that often did not cover the costs of production.
Finding this approach short-sighted, Straus spearheaded the movement for inventive farming practices and small-scale artisan dairy production critical to the survival of family farms. Because industrial agriculture was on the rise and milk prices were unrealistically low to sustain family farming, Straus saw an exciting opportunity — Create an organic marketplace; one which reflected the true costs of production and promoted responsible land stewardship, offering a viable, principled, sustainable business model for small dairy farms.
Innovative farming practices alone could not solve the plight of small family farms in California. To help solve the economic problems family dairies increasingly faced, Albert took a radical step — In 1994, he converted the family farm to organic and founded Straus Family Creamery, the first 100% certified organic creamery in the country. These bold actions effectively created the first pasture-to-bottle infrastructure for organic milk.
Under his own label, Albert Straus was able to create dairy products to his liking using his own organic milk — sustainably-made, wholesome dairy products of highest quality with organic milk from his family’s farm, bottled in reusable, recyclable glass bottles.
His certified organic milk was non-homogenized, with the cream rising naturally to the top. Bottling the organic milk in reusable glass bottles was Straus’ idea from the start, and it’s still bottled that way to this day.
Going organic freed Straus to fully embrace his deeply held belief in stewardship of the land. The emerging community of organic consumers in California represented a vital economic and health-oriented marketplace that was socially responsible, while also allowing for the challenging realities of family farms.
“I know that with farming comes an inherent responsibility of being a good steward of the land. My decisions are made to minimize our impact on the land. Growing up with parents who were actively trying to preserve our rural community and create a collaborative group of farmers, environmentalists, government agencies, and community members influenced me. I became active in our local community.”
– Albert Straus
Albert Straus inherited his sustainable ideals from his parents, Bill and Ellen Straus
Albert Straus kept innovating after transitioning his farm to organic and starting the Creamery. After detecting GMO contamination in his certified organic purchased animal feeds, Straus developed a GMO testing and verification program in 2005. Every source of feed for cows on the Straus dairy and the eleven other local, organic family farms that provide milk to the Creamery is tested for GMOs. When the Non-GMO Project emerged in 2010, Straus Family Creamery became the first creamery in the country to be verified.
Albert Straus continues to be a leader in sustainable farming practices, broadening the vision of environmentalism, sustainable practices and stewardship of the land, while also embracing the benefits of modern technology. The resulting innovations include a methane digester, which converts cow waste into renewable energy for on-farm vehicles including the first full-scale electric feed truck; a carbon farming program, designed to measure and optimize carbon capture; and the first-of-its-kind trial at his farm in 2021 testing red seaweed to dramatically reduce enteric methane emissions. These climate-positive farming practices are part of Albert Straus’ carbon-neutral dairy farming model goal.
Albert Straus plans on reaching his carbon-neutral dairy farming model goal on the Straus Dairy Farm by 2023 and expanding the model to the 11 other supplying dairy farms in 2030. Blue Ocean Barns’ red seaweed recently received regulatory approval. The Straus Dairy Farm is the first organic dairy farm committed to using this red seaweed when the certified organic feed becomes available at scale in 2023.
The regulatory approval is a turning point—a pivotal moment for dairy farmers struggling to keep their farms viable while reducing their climate impact and for the future of dairy farming.