Credit: Becca Dilley

James Baerwolf, , Sassy Cow Creamery

Sassy Cow Creamery's James Baerwolf knows his cows well. He gives the ones he favors names like Misty, Leah or Karen. But the bad ones? "I don't have names for the bad ones," he says, laughing.

Baerwolf and his brother, Robert, founded Sassy Cow Creamery four years ago on the family farm, north of Sun Prairie. The decision to begin selling their milk was based largely on the food culture in Madison and Dane County. Baerwolf thought his products, notably organic milk and ice cream with flavors like PB Banana Buster and Purple Cow, were a good fit for the community.

"From the grocer, to a restaurant, to a coffeehouse, to the customer themselves, people are pretty aware of their food choices — what they're buying and who they're putting their dollar toward," says Baerwolf. "I don't know if it's that way everywhere. If we'd been in a different area or a different state, we may have chosen not to do the creamery and farmed conventionally."

The Baerwolfs raise their herd of 600 cows the old-fashioned way. They do not use growth hormones. The cows used for their organic product are not given antibiotics, nor do they graze on acreage treated with pesticides or commercial fertilizers.

The Baerwolfs believe customers should be able to see where their milk is being produced. They invite customers to the Creamery store, W4192 Bristol Rd. in Columbus, where they can view the cows and, through giant glass windows, watch the milk being made in the processing area.

Dairy farming, Baerwolf says, is a family tradition. Three generations have worked on the farm that supplies the Creamery. Baerwolf says the decision to start the Creamery and provide local products to the Madison area has been rewarding.

"We're Madison's neighbor," Baerwolf says. "We're 15 minutes out of town, and we want to be Madison's dairy."

- Andrew Averill