2014-05-23 / Front Page

Kate’s adding a dairy barn

Facility will house 20 to 30 milking cows and produce organic milk
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


Kate’s Homemade Butter, as seen from Alfred Road, is gaining a dairy operation. The 6,500-square-foot dairy barn will be constructed behind the butter barn, next to the home of Lucas Patry and his fiancée, Alison Leary. Patry’s parents started the butter operation in 1980. 
(Alex Acquisto photo) Kate’s Homemade Butter, as seen from Alfred Road, is gaining a dairy operation. The 6,500-square-foot dairy barn will be constructed behind the butter barn, next to the home of Lucas Patry and his fiancée, Alison Leary. Patry’s parents started the butter operation in 1980. (Alex Acquisto photo) ARUNDEL – Kate’s Homemade Butter is getting cows, but not for butter.

Construction will begin shortly on a 6,500-square-foot dairy barn located on the parcel of land behind the butter barn on Alfred Road in Arundel.

The farm, to be named Alpen Rose Creamery — Kate’s Homemade Butter will be changed to an encompassing Kate’s Creamery — will remain small, with between 20 and 30 milking cows. The offering will be fresh, locally produced organic milk – a coveted product in today’s mass-produced dairy world.

“My father grew up around dairy farming in Minot, Maine,” said Lucas Patry, production manager at Kate’s. “He worked with his grandfather (Alphonse Hemond) and uncle (Roland); making a wide range of dairy product on a small scale. That farm still exists, the R.E. Hemond Farm and is run by my extended family members, Robert Hemond and Daniel French. They currently sell their milk to Oakhurst Dairy,” Patry said.


Alison Leary and Lucas Patry of Kate’s Homemade Butter stand in front of the hill where their future dairy barn is to be built. The operation completed its move from Old Orchard Beach to Arundel in February. Patry and fiancée Leary intend to have between 20 and 30 milking cows, and to sell their product out of retail space in the front of the existing butter barn. (Alex Acquisto photo) Alison Leary and Lucas Patry of Kate’s Homemade Butter stand in front of the hill where their future dairy barn is to be built. The operation completed its move from Old Orchard Beach to Arundel in February. Patry and fiancée Leary intend to have between 20 and 30 milking cows, and to sell their product out of retail space in the front of the existing butter barn. (Alex Acquisto photo) “My mother and father wanted to begin their own home business making quality dairy products, so they founded Kate’s Homemade Butter in 1980 with my aunt and grandmother. The intent was to provide high-quality homemade butter that would be available fresh to consumers at their local grocery store,” Patry said.

“The little girl on the package is my cousin, Kate. She was the youngest girl in our family at the time my parents began the company and the perfect face to represent what the company means to us and our customers.”

Patry said Kate’s distributes stick and tub butter and buttermilk to every major grocery store in New England, for Whole Foods from Maine to Florida and in specialty grocery stores all the way to Las Vegas.

“We source cream from local farms and cooperatives within the state. We don’t purchase cream from away because closer to home, cream is always freshest and the quality of Maine milk has always been notoriously high,” Patry said.

The operation completed its move in February from Old Orchard Beach to a 40-acre plot in Arundel. The 17,000-square-foot barn, which houses all the butter-making equipment, is still under construction. Patry and Leary moved with the company and built a house on the parcel just behind the barn, next to the future site of the dairy farm.

Despite their retirement, Patry maintains the quality over quantity mindset of his elders that helped pave the way for Kate’s reputation.

“As time goes by companies grow and product quality often changes. Kate’s has grown over the years and the work load has always grown with it, but we have never sacrificed quality, nor will we. The barn will be an extension of that philosophy.”

“We’d like to move to a new, specialized product line, between organic and grassfed cows,” said Lucas Patry, who joined the operation in 2004. Since then, with the help of his fiancée, Alison Leary, he has taken the reins.

Patry, 33, graduated from the University of Maine in 2004 with degrees in natural sciences and German. Leary, 25, is the son of Tim Leary, the owner and operator of Leary Dairy Farm, which is famous for being the last dairy farm in Saco. She studied dairy farm management at Vermont Technical College.

“Having a dairy barn was always a thought in the back of our minds,” Patry said.

Fortuitously, when Leary Dairy Farm announced earlier this year that it would be transitioning to vegetables, exclusively, Leary and Patry decided to move between 20 and 30 Normandy cows from Saco to Arundel.

“Normandies are not known for high production (of milk),” Leary said. “Whatever the cow wants to produce, she’s going to produce. She’s going to live a happy life and eat what she wants, as long as it’s natural.”

It’s no secret that owning and operating a small organic dairy farm during a time of increasingly available mass-produced milk is a daunting venture.

Just last week Maine’s Own Organic (Moo) Milk, a collaboration between 10 small, organic dairy farms that pooled their product announced it was closing after a four-year run.

The documentary film released in 2012, “Betting the Farm,” tells the story of the 10 farmers after they were all dropped by national distributors and resorted to forming a collective as a last-ditch effort to save their farms.

While the reason for Moo Milk’s closure was reportedly due to obsolete machinery, it persists in highlighting the very real fact that small, self-sustaining dairy farms are dwindling.

Patry and Leary are aware of the hardships in the dairy industry, which is why they aren’t going to try and compete with top competitors. The end product will be a hybrid of all-natural and educational dairy farming.

The new structure will allow space for 32 stalls, but “We plan on having about 20 milking cows,” Leary said.

Twenty cows is practically a backyard operation, as the average dairy herd in Maine is about 90. But that’s the point, Leary said. “We want to focus on quality over quantity.”

Dairy farming is notoriously known to be one of the more grueling types of farming, as the cows demand consistent attention.

“The herd size also has to be manageable for one person,” Leary said. She and Patry will be the only ones milking the cows, and they will do so using standard milking machines.

“If one of us is sick or out of town, the other one has to be able to milk without devoting their entire day to it,” said Leary, who then recalled spending eight hours straight milking on her family’s farm.

Twenty milking cows will hopefully demand only a few hours in the morning and a few in the evening.

“The size of the herd fits our lifestyle and it fits our community,” Patry said.

The intentionally small operation will also make it accessible for people to visit the grounds and educate themselves.

The dairy operation will usher in new retail space which will serve as the place to purchase milk and, once production is humming, specialty products.

“The idea is to have people come here,” Patry said.

“We want to encourage their curiosity because we have nothing to hide,” Leary said.

“We want to figure out what the market and people in this area want,” Patry said of the milk. “Our goal is to give people an affordable, top-quality product.”

They plan to gauge public interest by visiting places such as Portland’s Public Market to poll patrons. Once the construction process begins, Patry and Leary anticipate conducting field research at places such as Whole Foods.

“We want to know what type of dairy products people are interested in and then steer in that direction,” Patry said.

“As long as it’s all natural,” Leary added.

Patry and Leary are also outlining an animal welfare program, so when patrons visit the future dairy operation or buy milk, they will know “the cows are being treated they way they should be.”

This transparent approach “is the first one I know of,” Patry said.

The guidelines, which will be available in pamphlet form, will outline criteria ranging from the cow’s bedding, to water quality, feed and healthcare standards.

“The town has been fantastic through this process,” Patry said. “The town of Arundel really is a step ahead of everywhere else I’ve dealt with.”

“We will hopefully have cows in here by October,” Patry said.

Want to comment on this story? Visit our website at www.post. mainelymediallc.com and let us know your thoughts.

Return to top