webers kefir

Joellen and Ken Heiman display some of their popular Kefir drinks. The cultured, fermented beverage tastes a lot like a yogurt drink.

One of Weber’s Farm Store’s more recent offerings is its Kefir, a cultured, fermented beverage that tastes much like a yogurt drink. It’s evidence of how the store has continued to keep pace with the needs and wants of its customers 64 years after its establishment.

This past fall, the Kefir drink was nominated as one of the Coolest Things Made in Wisconsin, an annual Wisconsin Manufacturer’s & Commerce contest.

The farm store at 9706 County Road H in Marshfield has been a mainstay of the community since the family business was established in 1955 by Joellen Heiman’s parents, Joseph and Bernadine Weber who purchased the Weber Farm from his parents. They dreamt of building a dairy retail business to provide fresh milk products. Today, Heiman and her husband, Ken, co-own the business with their two sons as well as Kelvin and Marilyn Heiman and their son.

The store manufactures and sells its own milk (in pouches since 1973), features at least 80 varieties of cheese from Nasonville Day, and sells other mainstay grocery items such as eggs, butter, bread, pizza and ice cream. Joellen’s parents also had the forethought to install a drive-up window in 1960.

“It’s a great convenience on a rainy day, for a mother with three children or for an elderly couple as it’s quick, fast and easy,” Joellen said.

The store started as a “cutesy mama-papa store” in Heiman’s terms on the farm site, and it’s now been added onto twice. The most recent expansion — about 10 years ago — built the new store over the old one, enclosing it and then dismantling it. In 2015, Weber’s added a warehouse, a new cheese-cutting room a break room and a new cooler and freezer.

We are always looking ahead on what we can do to set ourselves apart and promote our business. —Joellen Heiman, co-owner, Weber’s Farm Store, Marshfield

It’s a far cry from when Joellen’s parents established the store as it only offered milk, butter and eggs. They’ve made a concerted effort to expand and offer products “that you use every day in your household,” she said. “It’s a working world and people want things convenient and faster.”

Weber’s Kefir came onto the scene in 2013 after her husband, a master cheese maker, took classes in Madison and learned more about it through his involvement with the organization now known as the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. His thought process was that they could manufacture the product, which offers many health benefits, using milk from the farm.

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we try something like this?’ and so we did,” Joellen said. The Kefir is made with 1 percent milk and features seven probiotics in it as well as high calcium and good protein content.

Six years later, the store’s eight Kefir varieties have really taken off as the products receive more awards. Raspberry has earned accolades several times, followed by strawberry, and Weber Farm Store recently added three new flavors to the mix: mango, tropical and orange. It’s also a great addition in a world that continues to evolve; Heiman acknowledges that things like soy, coconut and almond milk have put a “dent” in what the consumer is wanting. “So, we are always looking ahead on what we can do to set ourselves apart and promote our business,” she said. “Our next thing is A2 protein milk.”

A2 milk generally refers to a variety of cow’s milk that mostly lacks a form of β-casein proteins called A1 and instead has mostly the A2 form. Most regular cow’s milk contains both A1 beta casein and A2 beta casein. But some people’s stomachs can’t handle both. Offering A2 milk, which is very high in calcium and protein, is something Weber’s Farm Store can easily offer as the milk their cows produce contain mostly A2 beta casein.

“It starts with the genetics of the cow, and we’re testing all of ours right now,” Joellen said. “We are going to be launching the A2 milk soon, probably early in 2020.”

 

Other changes in the works include updates to the outer milk bag that is used with the milk pouches. The bags now feature the store’s Happy Cow, who finally has a name after 23 years: Bella. “We decided to change the look a bit and include Bella to entice kids to drink milk,” Joellen said of Bella, who is on the back of the bag along with the nutritional facts. “Our customers know they are getting the best milk possible without BSG or hormone additives. They are health conscious and want to know where their milk comes from.”

Heiman’s own health challenges prompted her to scale back on her store manager responsibilities after 23 years. “It’s been a plus because it’s opened me up for different things. I still do the marketing and advertising, including coordinating work with Wisconsin Farm Technology Days.”

In 2018, Weber’s Farm Store participated in the Technology Days on their land with a neighboring farm. The three-day outdoor event attracted more than 40,000 people.

Today, Weber’s Farm Store has about 10 employees including one full-time in the retail store. Heiman is very proud to say that the 64- year-old family business is flourishing.

hased this farm on the west side of Marshfield in 1904,” she said. “My Grandpa and Grandma used to peddle milk in town using a horse and carriage. Their son, John, peddled milk with my Grandma using a truck. And my father and mom established Weber’s Farm Store. We’re involved, and so is the next generation.”

That includes Heiman’s middle son, Ryan, who is involved in Nasonville Dairy. He also serves as a backup for Weber’s Farm Store when the main processor goes on vacation or needs extra help. Heiman’s younger son, Josh, manages Heiman Holsteins and works with Weber’s Farm Store. Her daughter, Michelle Heiman, a special education teacher, works in a back-up capacity in the retail store. It’s all about keeping the wheels turning for a farm store that has supported generations within the Marshfield community and beyond.

“We draw people from all over,” Joellen said. “There are families that came when my parents had the business whose kids are grown up now and living out of town, but they still come back when they’re in the area. They have to stop at Weber’s, often for our soft-serve cones, to stock up on cheese, and if feasible, to purchase our milk — especially our chocolate milk.”

That ice cream, and a playground that’s been in place for a few years, are huge draws during the warmer months. “It was a great idea because people sometimes just want to sit and enjoy the atmosphere as they don’t [otherwise] have the experience of being on a farm,” she said. “While we don’t milk cows anymore at the farm store — we do that at our other farm — we still have young stock here.”

While the ice cream is shut off come Thanksgiving week, customers happily shift gears to purchasing the store’s homemade holiday eggnog. That continues until early January.

“It’s really amazing to think about the store because when my parents established it, there was only farmland around,” Joellen said. “As the years went on, a Lutheran church was built across the street, an elementary school on the left of us, a golf course on the right, and about a mile behind us, a technical college. And we’re still here.”