Picket Fence Creamery’s Jill Burkhart
The Business Record ran a profile May 12 on Picket Fence Creamery, a Woodward-based dairy-farm-turned-dairy that Jeff and Jill Burkhart created to find a profit, despite low milk prices, by bottling and selling their own milk, dairy products and local goods. The Business Record checked in with Jill Burkhart to learn about the start-up’s first months.
Q: You had planned to open June 2. Did you meet that goal?
A: We had expected to open June 2, but we had to call the equipment dealership and tell them we weren’t ready. We had the building ready June 1, but we had to get back on the dealer’s schedule. The equipment was six weeks late in arriving from New York and it took three weeks to get it set up and running. Then we had a series of state and federal inspections to go through, which was expected. We had to do a little tweaking to ensure safety and that we were following protocol, and then we were given our Grade A permit. We started making ice cream in September, but we were still waiting for a part necessary to bottle the milk. We started bottling milk six or seven weeks ago.
Q: What kind of consumer response have you received?
A: The reception for product very good, which has been heartwarming and exciting for both of us. Our setup took longer than anticipated, but production, bottling and getting our product in stores was faster. Picket Fence Creamery products are in nine stores. We’re already getting half of the milk our cows produce into the stores, and sell the rest to a co-op. We hope to have 100 percent of the milk we produce in stores by first of the year. Originally, we thought it would take a year to reach that point.
Q: One venue that carries your products is the Metro Market. How did that come about?
A: Its owner, David Schlarmann, contacted us. He said he’d read an article about the product. It’s given us a Des Moines storefront and an opportunity for a different clientelle. We already have regular customers we see every week.
Q: Which of your products are the most popular?
A: Pumpkin and peppermint stick have been our most popular ice cream flavors, with the holidays. One of our most popular products is the butter. Oftentimes there’s none on our shelves because what we’ve made for the day has sold out. Milk is still the flagship.