Gold Fork Loomis Ranch
The Loomis name is well known in Valley County. Locals have fond memories of getting Loomis pigs for big summer barbecues and seeing the family at cattle auctions. Wyatt Loomis, a fourth-generation rancher and a junior at McCall/Donnelly High School, spoke with Edible Idaho about his family’s latest venture: direct-market dairy and eggs.
“We’ve been direct marketing for two or three years now,” said Loomis. “We got into it as grain prices were rising and we needed a higher profit than just selling our cattle and doing contract work for the Forest Service.”
So the family took advantage of Idaho’s Small Herd Exemption, a progressive set of laws that allows a small farm to legally sell milk or milk products without needing a certified Grade A dairy to produce them. A farm can bottle and sell milk or other dairy products made from up to three cows, seven goats and/or seven sheep without the costly stainless steel equipment and concrete hubbub required of dairy operations in the vast majority of states. Instead, producers must have their products tested for bacteria and coliform levels once a month. They must also follow a set of simple guidelines for disease management in their herds. As long as the products check out clean, the farm is able to sell them.
This has created a viable niche for small producers like the Loomises.
“The raw milk lets us compete with the big dairies on the grocery store shelves,” said Loomis.
It also allows his family a greater profit and his community access to fresher, better-tasting dairy and eggs than they would otherwise have in the small mountain town of McCall.
The Gold Fork Loomis Ranch products, which include raw milk, cream, butter, eggs, cheese and yogurt, are available at several McCall retailers, including Huckleberry Garden Health Food Store and Alpine Pantry. This also gives the small retailers something extra on their shelves to help them compete with regional chain grocers in the area.
“We like to support our locals,” said Millie Paplin at Huckleberry Garden. “And there’s a real demand for raw milk.”
For Loomis, it’s about more than just higher profits for his family’s ranch.
“We try to be as self-sufficient as possible,” he said. “But my favorite part is that the product is just so much better than anything you can buy in the store.”