Meet the Farmer: Grass Root Dairies

February 2024 - Community & Environment

Behind every bottle of milk that will soon fill your child’s glass at dinner and behind every wedge of gouda about to be sliced for a gathering…is a family farm. The hardworking, passionate dairy farmers and cheesemakers whose products fill our shelves have been carefully selected because they share our values and meet our standards: no added hormones, grass-fed and organic where possible. It takes great care to uphold these standards to make some of the most delicious cheese, butter, milk and yogurt out there. We know it’s important to you, and that’s why it’s important to us to support these local producers.

Grass Root Dairies from Salmon Arm, BC is a wonderful small dairy farm making traditional (and very tasty!) milk, cheese and yogurt for your family’s table.

In the fields below the emerald mountains surrounding Salmon Arm, BC, nearly 85 milk cows and calves wander and graze on lush, late-fall grasses.

“We’ve been farming grass feed for 16 years now with no other inputs from off the farm, just our own soils, compost and manure, and water from the well—and every year, my husband says, ‘We’ve never had such nice fields,’” says Kathy Wikkernik, matriarch of the family farm behind Grass Root Dairies. “The soil is so important.”

In fact, healthy soil is such a critical part of stewarding the land and bringing families fresh, totally natural cheese, milk and yogurt, that five years after the Wikkernik family took over the 45-acre property where Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm was established, they changed the name to Grass Root Dairies.

“Our approach is 100 per cent about the grass, and the roots of the grass going to the soil. That connection is so important to our farm and it’s how we can make the kind of grass-fed milk and dairy products that we wanted for our kids.”

Today, five of the six adult Wikkernik children help run Grass Root Dairies. The youngest son, at age 23, has been cheesemaking for five years. “I think he’s just about mastered the art already. We’re proud of him.”

One son drives the delivery trucks to distant posts so all Nature’s Fare Markets stores can keep shelves stocked with their ever-popular bottled traditional milk; unique dairy products, like Quark and Bulgarian yogurt; and award-winning, preservative-free cheeses, such as Mazuda, Maasdammer and a variety of uniquely spiced Goudas. “It means so much to us, to have this connection to customers through Nature’s Fare.”

A third son manages a recently purchased 200-acre farm just down the road where a band of 50 ‘A2’ cows (which have a genetic variation that gives their milk a different protein ratio) produce a bottled milk that can be easier to digest, even for those with dairy intolerances.

“And there is no further processing,” says Kathy, of milk made at both Grass Root farms. “It comes straight from the cow. People say: ‘Oh, it’s so nice to have such good milk,’ or ‘Oh, that’s what I grew up with on the family farm.’ It’s true. It is tastier.”

In the winter, Grass Root cows eat organic hay while the Wikkerniks carry on with the milking, cheesemaking and planning for another season. “I stand in awe of our children. It’s humbling to know that people love our milk and dairy products so much.” 

Article was published in The Good Life magazine.

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