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Producing Excellence

Johnnie de Jong

Hanford, CA

Summerhill Goat Dairy

Products: Goat milk

Size of Operation: 2,000 head

In Business Since: 1999

Farm Credit Partner: Golden State Farm Credit

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1999

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Increasing consumer demand for goat milk has created a market opportunity that dairyman Johnnie de Jong and his wife, Anneke, have pursued with enthusiasm.

In 1999, Johnnie heard about a goat dairy for sale and decided to check it out. He decided on the spot to purchase the operation and they got started learning all they could about managing a healthy goat herd. Back then, the de Jong’s goat herd was 186 goats; today, it’s grown to 1,200 with plans to expand even further. “People are drinking more and more goat milk, and we want to meet those needs,” says Johnnie. The increased demand for goat milk – which, says Johnnie, tastes like cow milk if properly treated – stems primarily from its lower levels of lactose compared with cow milk, and the different, milder proteins it contains which make it a good alternative for those cannot digest cow milk.

Summerhill Goat Dairy’s biggest expansion happened three years ago when Johnnie built a new facility with financing from Golden State Farm Credit. The state-of-the-art facility includes a rotary milking parlor – a smaller version of that used by cow dairies across the country – as well as barns to house the animals and pasteurization and bottling plant. The de Jongs also manage marketing, sales and delivery in what has become a vertically integrated operation. Their milk is sold through major retailers in eight states; in all, Summerhill’s all-natural and Certified Humane goat milk can be found in 800 stores, including Trader Joes and Whole Food as well as regional chains like Jimbo’s and Lassen’s.

Delivering a steady supply of goat milk throughout the year can be a challenge since, unlike cows, goats breed seasonally. “We try to breed as many as we can late in the season and early the next,” says Johnnie, but the goats typically breed only October through February. Johnnie’s herd includes five different varieties, each of which brings unique qualities to the milk. The breeds are also crossbred. “We’ve had a closed herd for the past three years,” Johnnie says. “It’s better for the health of the herd.”

As committed as the de Jongs are to delivering healthy goat milk, they’re also focused on providing exceptional service to their customers. The dairy’s toll-free number rings in their home, and every call is answered or returned by Anneke, whether it’s an inquiry, a complaint or a thank you.

Despite the challenges and the demands, Johnnie and Anneke intend to continue expanding Summerhill Goat Dairy to meet the growing consumer demand, and anticipate continuing to work with Golden State Farm Credit to do so. “We wouldn’t be where we are without Golden State Farm Credit being willing to take on the risk of my goat dairy,” he says. “They’ve been a pleasure to deal with, and I plan to continue working with them long into the future.”

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