Milton Creamery is the result of a dream built in Southern Iowa – a place with rolling hills, woodlands, rivers and rich soil.
A dream of doing something to help others in the agriculture world and beyond, adding value to the milk for dairy farmers, creating jobs in the local community and bringing consumers a product created with art and passion in Southern Iowa.
The Musser Family solely owns and operates Milton Creamery since 2006. Rufus III, his wife Jane and their son Rufus IV “Junior” currently work with local Amish and Mennonite dairy farmers and manage the team of nearly 30 people.
Making specialty cheese since 2006.
Rufus and Jane are originally from Pennsylvania, and moved to Milton, IA in 1992 for a change of pace from growing and selling produce to dairy farming. They milked cows and farmed 170 acres. It was a good lifestyle, as their Mennonite traditions value hard work, ingenuity, and simple living. But Rufus missed being involved with people as the “cows only kick, they don’t talk,” as he would say.
In 2000, through a few chance encounters, Rufus and Jane attended a one-day conference at the University of Wisconsin on value-added dairy. A specialty cheese importer spoke about the industry and something sparked in Rufus. “That’s where it’s at!”, he told Jane. Specialty cheese seemed much more intriguing than anything he’d seen before.
From that meeting, Rufus knew cheesemaking was what he was interested in. The Musser's and a few interested Amish spent over 4 years researching the viability of creating a business from the ground up. Trying to educate themselves, they made the commitment to move forward with the project.
On May 8, 2006 Milton Creamery made its first batch of cheese.
In 2009, they brought home their first cheese award from the US Cheese Championship. Prairie Breeze™ won First Place in the Open Hard category. More blue ribbons have been awarded through other categories and cheeses.
Milton Creamery expanded their facility to support operations and cheesemaking growth in early 2020. The project added a 17,000 square foot facility designed to age up to 1.5 million pounds of their award-winning Prairie Breeze™ and other cheeses.
Local Family Farm
We think that at this point most people understand what we do, but we’d like to tell you more about why we do it.
We are a small family-owned business that makes award-winning cheese. That’s what we do. But the reason why we do it is much bigger and far more important than us.
When we set out to create Milton Creamery over 15 years ago, we did it out of necessity. We wanted to help provide a more viable and economically sound solution for the small, local, and family-owned dairy farms in our community. We felt that if we did it right, and we made a cheese that people would truly enjoy, that just maybe we could place a higher value on our neighbor’s milk than the other milk buyers in our area and help support our local dairy farms. In a nutshell, that’s why we are in business.
Fast forward to 2020. At the very beginning of the year, we were nearing the completion of our largest expansion. This expansion was intended to lay the groundwork for us to make, age, cut and pack more cheese than we ever could have dreamed of when we started. Also, while this new building was being built, we made a decision that we would use the construction time to also build up our inventory. So, we took on a few more local, family owned dairy farms to turn their milk into award winning cheese.
Just a few weeks after we moved our cheese into our brand new facility, COVID-19 was beginning to show itself and the harm it can do in our local community. Customers were cancelling their orders, trucks containing orders that had already shipped were being turned around and we were left with a lot of wind taken out of our sails.
Like many artisan cheesemakers (and business of all types) in the US, we have been hit hard.
Despite all that has happened, we have tried to make the best of things. We have continued to pick up the milk that our family farms have to offer and work so hard for. We have continued to pay a premium price for that milk as well.
But our “community” doesn’t just mean our local dairy farms either. At Milton Creamery, we employ approximately 30 people who are our friends and neighbors. We try to provide meaningful work, opportunities for personal and professional growth, and pay well for their dedication and service. Our employees are an extension of our family which is important to us.
The 2020 summer was the slowest (from a sales and business perspective) that we have experienced since our earliest days. It was easy to see our staff feeling uneasy because there just wasn’t enough work for everyone.
As of Spring 2022 the orders are in full-swing and things are going well. We are grateful to the many people who have helped us along the journey and are continuing to keep us in business by their support in many ways. Sales are good and the future looks promising. As we know, things can change fast and we want to give Thanks to God for His continued Blessings.