Kelsey's Cash Cow

A determined teenager started her own dairy, producing milk, butter and fine cheeses from brie to blue with her very own cash cow.


| October/November 2005



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Kelsey milks Iris.


Photo courtesy Kelsey Kozak

Kelsey Kozak of Vashon Island, Wash., was 8 years old when she got a subscription to Fine Cooking magazine and started talking about buying a cow so she could make her own cheese. Brie was what she had in mind — a traditional soft French cheese with a distinctive white rind.

Now 16 years old, Kelsey has her cow — Iris, a 6-year-old Jersey with a silky tan coat and soulful brown eyes. She also has established Fort Bantam Creamery, a one-cow dairy based on a self-designed and profitable cow-share program. With Iris’ milk, Kelsey makes deep-golden (no color added!) butter, creamy yogurt, luscious ice cream and an array of flavorful cheeses, including her personal favorite (brie), as well as farmer’s cheese and mozzarella.

To find Iris, Kelsey says, she researched raising cows, particularly dairy breeds, and visited dairy farms in her area. She settled on a Jersey because it’s one of the oldest dairy breeds and is well-known for high-quality milk and butterfat production.

The visits to dairy farms proved useful in another, unexpected way. Some of the dairies were confinement operations, Kelsey says, where the cows were milked without any human touch and fed a grain-based diet that can cause health problems for the animals.

“Unfortunately,” Kelsey says, “the reality of the average dairy cow’s life is a far cry from the image of a contented cow amid a sea of green that adorns most advertising labels.”

Kelsey had her own ideas for Iris’ care. She says she wanted her cow to be grass-fed because milk from grass-fed cows is higher in beta carotene and vitamin E than milk from grain-fed cows. In part, that’s because fresh pasture has more of these nutrients than grain or hay. Another factor behind the high nutrient content is that a grazing cow produces less milk than a grain-fed cow, and because any given cow has only a set amount of vitamins to transfer to her milk; the less milk she produces, the more vitamins are in each glass.





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