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Hooked On Ronnybrook

06/14/2010

Delivered at peak freshness, deliciously rich, wholesome, and hormone-free Creamline milk (1 percent, left, and whole milk, right) from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy moves from cow to table in just a little more than a day and is pasteurized but not homogenized so the cream floats to the top. Spoon off the cream or shake the bottle before opening for maximum enjoyment. (photo NYS Made)

It’s not just a layer of cream that rises in every bottle of Ronnybrook Farm Dairy milk, so has Peter Osofsky, nephew of the farm’s namesake, Ronny Osofsky, and third-generation dairy farmer and milkman. Four days a week, he’s trucked the dairy’s products early in the morning from Ancramdale, NY, to various greenmarkets and wholesale deliveries in New York City.

Peter Osofsky delivers dairy products, as well as coordinates and manages all five of the Ronnybrook Farm Dairy stands at the Saturday greenmarkets located throughout New York City. (photo NYS Made)

“Yeah, I’m a milkman,” Peter said, but “my whole life’s been at the farm. My grandpa, uncles (Ronny and Sid), cousins… very much in the blood. My uncle Ronny is 70 now. He was born the year my grandfather started the farm,” he said.

In 1941, Peter’s grandfather, Dave Osofsky, bought the farm in Ancramdale after marrying his wife, Helen, a butcher’s daughter from Brooklyn.

Yet the family’s agricultural roots in the area go even further back to 1899, according to a January 2003 gourmet.com article by Meryl Gordon, with Peter’s great grand parents, Nathan and Rebecca Osofsky. Polish immigrants who left the Lower East Side for rural upstate New York to run a Catskill-like hotel they built in a nearby town for like-minded vacationing visitors, and they grew their own food to feed the guests. Even though the hotel no longer exists, his grandfather, Dave, decided to stay in the area.

“I think we’re a successful family farm,” Peter said. “My father is involved. My sister is involved. And they want me more involved.” Peter’s uncle Ronny, the oldest of the three Osofsky brothers, is a full-time dairy farmer.

Yet Peter’s own path towards the family business wasn’t always clear-cut. “In high school, I would load trucks for extra money,” he said. After receiving a liberal arts degree in Michigan in 1997, “I came back, and my dad immediately got me working that summer, yelling for me to get out of bed.”

But the travel bug bit and he backpacked his way through Europe and Africa. Eventually getting homesick, he returned and began working full-time, moving to the city and managing the Ronnybrook Farm Dairy store at the Chelsea Market that same year. In 1998, he worked at their stand at the Union Square Greenmarket.

“In 2000, I took over one of the delivery routes, and then I never stopped doing the same run — about 100 miles,” he said. Now delivering only twice a week to be more involved in the administrative and management side of the family farm with his father, Rick, and sister, Kate, Peter still delivers the dairy’s products every Saturday and sells them at the Greenpoint/McCarren Park Greenmarket at 8 a.m. in Brooklyn, NY, usually with a line of people waiting for him with their empty, returnable $1.50 deposited glass bottles in hand.

Ronnybrook Farm Dairy (flavored) Creamline Yogurt is made with whole milk and live cultures — no thickeners or additives, period. (photo NYS Made)

Other flavors include maple vanilla, coconut, peach, and strawberry made with fresh fruit, pure vanilla extract, and 100 percent natural maple syrup. (photo NYS Made)

Surprisingly, when asked which of the deliciously creamy dairy products Peter’s family produces is his favorite, he answers: “I drink the milk every day, mainly in my coffee, but I love the regular yogurt and the Greek yogurt.”

Another surprise are the old-fashion glass milk bottles, first sold to the public in 1991 not 1941, with their nostalgic appeal — a throw back to a time when milk was delivered to people’s doors every morning.

After decades of selling raw milk to a co-op, the family decided to sell milk directly to consumers in returnable glass bottles as the price of milk fluctuated in order to make ends meet and keep the family farm going. “We’re having an anniversary party at the farm (this summer) celebrating 19 and a half years,” Peter said.

Soon after, they began introducing other dairy products, such as yogurt, drinkable yogurts, super premium ice creams, butter, cheeses, and spreads. In the fall, Ronnybrook egg nog is eagerly awaited for holiday consumption but can also be found as one of their sumptuous flavors of ice cream.

Prize-winning Holsteins graze on fresh pasture during the spring, summer, and fall. In the winter, they consume hay harvested on the farm during the summer. (photo courtesy Ronnybrook Farm Dairy)

Shunning additives and preservatives in their dairy products, as well as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in their fields, the Osofsky’s have managed to avoid the federal organic certification in favor of treating their Holsteins with antibiotics when recommended by their veterinarian if one of them gets sick. The added step of removing the sick cow from the milking rotation is also taken.

Ronnybrook Farm Dairy butter, freshly churned in small 40-gallon batches at the farm's creamery, is available in salted and unsalted. (photo NYS Made)

The dairy produces a high butter fat content of 84-86 percent similar to European butter which also come in garlic and cinnamon flavor. (photo NYS Made)

“We’re unique,” Peter said of his family and of the dairy, which is constantly striving to be a sustainable operation producing new products while trying to run a family farm.

“It’s been a lot of work for a long time,” he said, “and I’d like to see all the family members, especially my parent’s generation, happy, relaxed, successful. See them have a good quality of life.”

For more information about Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and their greenmarket locations, please visit:
http://www.ronnybrook.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ronnybrook-Farm-Dairy-Milk/10476014807

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2 Comments
  1. Mariann Groeling permalink

    Wonderful article about all the good things Ronnybrook does and their great products. The family is so involved in the farm. So glad they are succeeding as David would have wanted.

  2. charles Kahil permalink

    Went on a tour with my son and family friends last Saturday. Rick was very generous with his time as he gave us a tour of the dairy operation. Ads a youngster who worked on a dairy farm, Rick was able to explain many changes in the industry that have helped boost production and quality.I was most impressed with his knowledge. The products were delicious! Thank you for a great day and I look forward to returning.

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