Slowing Down On The Farm: The Story Of The Straus Dairy

By Catherine Girardeau

Marin County dairy farmer Albert Straus started moving toward a “slower” way of doing business back in 1994, when his family-owned farm, Straus Family Creamery, became the only organic dairy west of the Mississippi.

Straus, whose organic ice cream will be scooped out at the Ice Cream Pavilion at Slow Food Nation, has been producing organic milk, yogurt, butter and ice cream under the family name ever since. Straus grew up on his father’s conventional dairy farm in Marshall, California, a town so small it had a one-room schoolhouse, on the shores of Tomales Bay in western Marin County, 60 miles north of San Francisco. He joined the farm as a partner in 1977 and made the risky, but prescient decision to transition the operation from conventional to organic in the early 1990s.

“Someone approached me about doing organic milk for ice cream,” Straus said in an interview in a makeshift conference room above his dairy. “I had no clue what it was. It took me three-and-a-half years to figure out what “organic” meant. No one else was doing it. There was one small co-op in Wisconsin, Organic Valley, but that was it.”