By Jared Janzen
NEWTON—In these times of sheltering in place at home, what could be better than having homemade cheese and ice cream delivered straight to your doorstep?
That’s the new business plan for two local businesses: Grazing Plains Farm, which sells a variety of homemade cheese, and the Salted Creamery, which specializes in homemade ice cream.
The two have teamed up and launched a new website, Harvey County Dairy Dispatch, to start delivery their products to anyone within a 15-mile radius of Newton, which would include most of Harvey County.
“So far we’ve had quite a few responses,” Salted Creamery owner Kendra Burkey said. “I think people are hungry for ways to support local businesses.”
This Friday will be their first delivery date, and they plan to continue deliveries once a week every Friday. There’s no delivery charge, but they ask for a minimum order of $25. Customers also have the option to pick up their order on Friday afternoons the commercial kitchen at Burkey’s North Newton home.
“They can know their money is staying locally and supporting local businesses,” Jason Schmidt, owner of Grazing Plains Farm, added.
Schmidt’s products include cheese curds and feta, plus a few unique cheeses like tilsit and farmstead. He said his products are safe and healthy and come from Jersey cows, meaning they have a higher percentage of protein and fat to create a rich flavor.
Burkey’s ice cream menu includes cookies and cream, key lime pie, caramel butter pecan, dark chocolate, berry cheesecake, and other tasty flavors.
Although Schmidt and Burkey have known each other for years since attending Hesston College together, this is the first time they’ve brought their businesses together to collaborate.
“We were looking for ways to keep our heads above the water, create ways to make it through this,” Burkey said.
Schmidt added that they had brainstormed together in the past and even talked about creating a joint processing plant, but this is the first time they’ve actually teamed up.
They hope the delivery option will help counteract some of their lost sales since they can’t have their products available as many places.
“I’ve been selling locally and in Wichita mostly,” Schmidt said. “Farmers markets are a pretty big part of my sales, but with the coronavirus, that’s going away.”
He’s been selling his homemade cheeses for a year now using milk from his farm east of Newton. Only a small portion of the milk from his 70-cow dairy farm east of Newton is processed into cheese. The rest he sells as milk, but he said the dairy industry is taking a hard hit right now, so it’s hard to know how deeply he’ll be impacted by COVID-19.
Burkey said COVID-19 had struck her business at a bad time just when she was planning to expand.
“The timing could not be any worse because I’m just ending a 17-year teaching career and was thinking I’d be selling ice cream full-time,” she said, adding that she and her husband had just completed some home renovations to prepare for this.
“I’ll be OK, but it throws a wrench into my plan,” she said.
Both Schmidt and Burkey continue to have their products available for purchase at Prairy Market and Deli in Newton. Ad Astra, a restaurant in Strong City, is also continuing to offer curbside orders of Burkey’s products, and she noted that they had recently purchased some of her ice cream wholesale to give to health care workers on the front lines as a gesture of appreciation.
Burkey said she thought they would continue making deliveries even after business returns to normal. Schmidt similarly said he and his wife had talked in the past about the idea of bringing back an old-fashioned milk delivery service—though he’s not currently set up to bottle milk—so he said he and Burkey would have to plan for their future after COVID-19 subsides.
Burkey added she was incredibly grateful for the support the community has providing, not just to Salted Creamery and Grazing Plains, but to so many other local businesses.
“For everybody who has bought a pint of Salted Caramel or a package of cheese curds or even left an encouraging note on Facebook, it means a lot,” she said. “We’re hoping some cheese and ice cream will make everybody’s day a little brighter, too.”
Orders for cheese or ice cream may be made at www.dairydispatch.com.