I learned about Earl and Mickey Smith’s farm by chance from a volunteer at Freewheelin’ Bikes in Indianapolis, and I was excited to visit an Organic Valley Co-op farm. Camille Farms is a fourth-generation dairy – Earl’s son Mickey took over in 2008, after managing the Kroger produce department for 8 years, and he has dreams of expanding the dairy in partnership with a friend, and starting a farm store to sell products made on the farm as well as other local, organic products.
The Smiths’ herd is made up of crosses between Jersey and Guernsey cows, and Mickey keeps track of all of the cows on an impressive board with all of their names right inside the door of the milking parlor.
They’re milked twice daily, and it takes about 1 ½ hours each time to milk all 28 cows. The milking parlor was built in the 1970s and sports awesome round globes where the milk is held. When the milking machine is pumping, I felt like we were watching over some great Cold War nuclear experiments.
A calf was born the night before I arrived, and “Josh” was a real sweetie. Mickey’s friend Lexie strokes his head and he seemed to really enjoy it, unlike the two poor skittish calves that Mickey’s nephew riled up.
Earl has been an active member of the Hancock County community for years, and he’s a real advocate of real, organic food as a leader in the Buy Fresh Buy Local movement. He and his wife Barbara go to a handful of local markets each week, selling milk and dairy products from the farm, Organic Valley, and other local producers.
I was intrigued by what I saw at Camille Farms; the Smiths are a well-established local family like the Kilguses. Camille Farms’ current and future marketing is focused on staying small and local by going organic, currently through the Organic Valley co-op, but Mickey’s aspirations lie in a more direct farm-to-consumer organic network. The Kilgus dairy has refocused their marketing to a specific niche – pastured and grass-fed, but more importantly, they process and bottle on-site – which has retained their local market but also expanded to a speciality market in Chicago and Indiana.