The Milkhouse: Colby alumni open local creamery

Entering the rundown barn in China, ME, Andy Smith ’11, churning yogurt in the corner. He wore a forest green jacket and matching pants tucked into black boots. Smiling to me, he explained the process of making yogurt and passionately detailed the ingredients he uses.

Two years ago, Smith and Caitlin Frame founded the Milkhouse, a certified organic creamery in South China, Maine that produces yogurt and bottles milk. In an average week, Smith and Frame make two trips to local stores, including Barrels Market in Waterville, to deliver their products.

The yogurt is made in a converted barn on the couple’s property and takes a days work to complete. Using solely milk from Jersey cows, which producing high quality milk and organic yogurt cultures, Smith churns the yogurt as part of a multistep process. The milk for their operation comes from the nearby Two Loons Farm, which has a herd of over 65 milkable Jersey cows.

Though a part of the agriculture scene now, both Smith and Frame grew up far from the world of farming, however Frame emphasizes that their families have been encouraging.

“Both of our families have been incredibly supportive, despite the differences in how we carry out our lives,” Frame said. “I think we have been really lucky in that way….both our parents and our siblings really make an effort to come up and visit us.”

The two became involved in the sustainable agriculture world while in college. While at Colby, Smith apprenticed at the Village Farm, a nearby, small-scale farm, where he fell in love with farming in spite of his difficult first experience milking Lucy, an aggressive cow.

“I worked on [the Village Farm] for two summers while I was in college, and I started to learn a lot about farming and how to run the business of a farm,” Smith said.

On campus, Smith started the Colby Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (COFGA), which still has a strong presence on campus.

“Andy is the creator of COFGA. ….It is safe to say that without Andy and Ben’s [another student at the time] tenaciousness, determination and hard work there would not be a student garden as there is on campus today,” Operations Manager of Dining Services Joseph Klaus said.

Smith ran into current COFGA members on a recent visit to The Village Farm.

“It was wonderful to see around ten COFGA [members] and to know that it’s still going on,” Smith said.
Though no longer officially connected with COFGA, the Milkhouse represents a main goal of COFGA: to proliferate the sustainable and local food movement.

“There is an incredible agrarian knowledge in the area, and amazing farmers, like Andy, John, and Prentice [other local farmers], who are eager to teach students about farming and its challenges and rewards,” senior and COFGA member Shelby O’Neill ’15 said.

Like Smith, Frame also became fascinated with farming during college, especially after her first Environmental Science class at Skidmore College.

“I became interested [in sustainable farming] when I took an intro to Environmental Science class and became concerned with sustainable food systems,” Frame said.

Since their days in college, the two have gained experiential knowledge in the field through working at multiple farms in central Maine and met through these apprenticing positions.

“We managed a farm in Lincolnville after we had gotten together, but we got to know each other when we were both apprentices on different farms,” Frame said.

The two have now been able to use the knowledge they gained from previous jobs and apply it to make their own production as sustainable as possible. Although they are making such efforts as choosing efficient delivery routes to reduce vehicle emissions, there are limitations they face by nature of the size of the operation.

“Frankly, at the moment, we are where a lot of small-scale, local producers are, which is that we don’t have super efficient equipment,” Smith said. In the future, they hope to expand and create a more eco-friendly operation. “We have a lot of dreams for what the yogurt production could be in terms of sustainability and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” Smith said.

The couple is only in their current location temporarily, but hopes to someday expand to have their own farm. Once at a more permanent location, Smith and Frame plan to invest in more efficient and sustainable methods. Buying a farm of their own, however, is a big commitment and not one that Smith and Frame are quite ready to make yet.
“We’ll see,” Frame said. “It’s a big step, buying a farm.”

The creamery is currently 30 minutes from Colby, but in the future, the Milkhouse would love to bring its products to campus by selling yogurt to the school.