Story

Looking Back

Straus Family Creamery Founder/CEO and organic dairy farmer Albert Straus is the oldest son of Bill and Ellen Straus. Bill began his dairy farm in the early 1940s in Marshall, on the beautiful shores of Tomales Bay, and Ellen joined him in 1950. They started out small, with only 23 Jersey cows, which they named after family and friends.

Bill and Ellen’s four children were raised on the ranch. By the time they reached adulthood, the California dairy industry was in transition and a different, much larger, industrial type of dairy farm had begun to spread itself on the land.

By the 1970s, the typical landscape of small family dairy farming in Northern California had shifted dramatically. Over a few short decades, the number of licensed dairy farms in the United States sharply declined from 4.6 million in 1940 to just more than 40,000 in 2018. The number of cows had also declined, from 22 million in 1940 to slightly over 9 million in 2016, according to the USDA.

Organic

Innovative Farming Before Its Time

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 family had stopped using herbicides on the farm in the mid-1970s, and in the early 1980s, Albert replaced tilling fields, used to grow silage, with a no-till method of planting, to prevent soil erosion and reduce fuel consumption. He also stopped using chemical fertilizers (which had been minimal for decades) in the mid-1980s.

To bring food waste back into the system for cows, Albert sourced cow feeds from creative and unusual places, such as orange peel and pulp from a family-owned fresh orange juice factory in San Francisco, and rice sake waste from a local distillery.

Over the course of several decades, a manure wastewater pond system was implemented and improved beyond state and federal requirements. This enabled the dairy to use manure solids to be naturally composted and used as fertilizer, and to turn manure liquids back into nutrient-rich water for irrigation of pastures.

 

Straus Family Creamery

The first 100% certified organic creamery in the country

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 — 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.

Of course, the certified organic milk produced at the Straus Dairy Farm isn’t enough to make all the organic dairy products. To sustain the integrity of the organic process and keep the approximate ratio of one cow per acre of land, Albert wouldn’t add any more cows to his herd. Straus Family Creamery buys certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified milk from eight other organic, local family farms: the two Tresch family dairy farms, Hughes, Correia, Brazil, Silacci, Mendoza, and Cypress Lane Ranch.

Today, nearly 90% of the dairy farms in Marin and Sonoma Counties in Northern California are certified organic. Straus Family Creamery continues to make business decisions based on its mission to help sustain family farms, revitalize rural communities, and protect the environment.