Dairy pays tribute to heritage
You could say milk is in Jason Schmidt’s blood.
A fifth-generation dairy farmer, he returned to the family farm southwest of Goessel 12 years ago and later took over the farm from his parents.
“I’ve been running solo for five years,” Schmidt said.
His goal for Grazing Plains Farm is to use sustainable agricultural practices.
His life and operation are shaped by his Mennonite heritage. So is one of the cheeses he makes.
“We have a small, on-farm licensed creamery where we make cheese,” he said.
His 75-head farm makes an array of traditional and specialty cheeses sold at small food stores and specialty markets throughout the state.
The cheeses include cheddar, cheddar havarti, caraway havarti, Elbing cheese, feta, and fromage blanc.
Grazing Plains Farm’s tilsit cheese is a heritage product.
“Tilsit is a German cheese that my Mennonite ancestors invented, so that’s kind of going back to my heritage,” he said.
Stores where his cheeses are sold include Boot Hill Distillery in Dodge City, Cecil K’s in Holton, Common Ground Producers and Growers in Wichita, Firefly Farm Food Hub in Wichita, Liquid Art Winery in Manhattan, Love Acres Farm in Hutchinson, Meridian Grocery in Newton, Mojos in North Newton, Krehbiel’s Specialty Meats in McPherson, Prairieland Market in Salina, Prairy Market in Newton, Smith’s Market in Hutchinson, Yoder Meats in six locations across Kansas, and Ze German Markt in Wichita. He also has a small farm store.
He has six employees who milk at 5 a.m. and 4 p.m. Whole milk is sold through Dairy Farmers of America.
“They’re kind of a monopoly with the fluid milk market in the U.S.,” Schmidt said.
The farm produces 2,850 gallons of milk and 60 pounds of cheese a week.
Schmidt also keeps a flock of 15 to 20 sheep.
“I’ve had the sheep longer than I’ve had the dairy farm,” he said. “I called them my entry drug into dairy farming.”
He markets breeding stock, selling 15 to 30 lambs a year, and direct-markets meat. He sells lamb meat to Prairy Market.
Last modified Jan. 5, 2022