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Cheesemaking becomes family tradition

HASTINGS, MI — At the Sand Creek Dairy in Hastings, MI, Luke and Renee Haywood are raising more than just dairy cattle; they have five boys who are heading toward continuing the family tradition of farming.

The three oldest have expanded their agricultural horizons by working with their grandfather Larry Haywood and developing a micro-business of making artisan cheese.

Ethan, Austin and Devin Haywood have been making Havarti cheese with Larry for a number of years, first as a hobby, then becoming a company in 2011.

Haywood Family Cheese specializes in a variety of flavored Havarti cheeses including jalapeno, salsa, tomato/basil, olive, garlic/dill, and garlic/chive.

“We started out making cheese in ice cream buckets to 20 and 40 pound blocks now,” Ethan said.

They began by experimenting with butter cheese and mozzarella and evolved to the finer European cheese.

When asked how they work making cheese between college and school work, tractor restorations, chores on the farm and extracurricular activities such as FFA and 4-H, Larry said they just work it out when they could.

“We try to make it about once a month and sometimes more often during the holidays,” he said.

“We can make 200 pounds in a batch and that will last us a month, between selling and giving away.”

It takes two days to make the cheese with the first day being devoted to creating the product and setting it into a cheese press overnight.

The next day is dedicated to dividing and packaging. Though they raise their own dairy cattle, the milk used for the cheese is purchased locally from another dairy producer.

They have found that approximately one gallon of milk will produce one pound of cheese.

“The Jersey milk has a little higher yielding because of the higher components,” Austin said.

“It causes the cheese to be a little more yellow and will be creamier.”

They also work with Holstein milk which gives a slightly smaller yield of product.

This project has broadened the boys’ ideas and thoughts on their futures. Ethan, Austin and Devin, along with the two younger boys, are sixth generation farmers and work with their grandfather and father on the centennial farm.

“There are lots of opportunities for us to expand the business at some point from bottling milk to making ice cream, depending on if there is a market out there for it,” Austin said.

“That’s what is nice about the dairy industry; there are lots of opportunities for us along with the opportunity to continue to work together as a family."