Taste. Quality. Family.
South Mountain Creamery was founded in 2001 by Randy and Karen Sowers, who have been farming together for over 30 years.
The Story of South Mountain Creamery
Randy and Karen have a deep passion for farming that's developed over many years. Karen's grandfather started the Soil Conservation Board in Frederick County in 1941, and served until 1949. He passed his passion for the land on to his son -- Karen's Father -- who then served on the board from 1981 until his passing in March of 2014. Randy and Karen met in the 1970s while participating in 4-H. After they were married in 1974, Randy worked as an electrician and fuel truck driver, while Karen was a library media specialist at a local elementary school. In 1981, while Karen was pregnant with their son Ben, Randy's brother approached him about working together to run a farm. Despite various hesitations, they moved forward with the idea and rented a farm in Middletown, Maryland, which ultimately became Sowers Dairy. Randy's brother helped run the farm until 1983, when Randy took over on his own. The rental included farm and machinery equipment, and they took out a loan to purchase their first 100 dairy cows. Randy worked full-time to keep the farm running smoothly, and Karen helped during the evenings, weekends, and summer breaks. Together, they began building the history of South Mountain Creamery.
Through various setbacks, including a fire to the milking parlor in 1982, Randy and Karen were blessed enough to be able to purchase the farm from the previous owner, Mr. Moser, in 1987, and entered the farm property into Maryland’s Land Preservation program.
With their then two young children, Abby and Ben, the Sowers continued developing their farm and added a beef herd in 1989. After a sudden tornado destroyed the roof of the calf barn later that year, Randy and Karen decided to move forward with their next improvement project and, by 1991, they were able to add the original chicken house building, which housed 110,000 white laying hens. The family housed, cared for, and packed eggs daily, and their hard work paid off when Karen, after surviving a bout with cancer, was able to leave her day job and work on the farm full time.
In 1998, the original Double-Six milking system was overhauled and a brand new Double-Ten Herringbone was constructed. They could now milk 20 cows at a time!
The Farm Started to Grow
Over the next nine years, Ben got more involved in the day-to-day workings of the farm, and gave his parents many ideas about how to grow and improve the farm. With a push from him, Randy and Karen began planning for South Mountain Creamery - Maryland’s FIRST on-the-farm milk processing plant. The goal was to process their high quality milk and bottle it right on their farm, instead of selling the milk to a co-op. They decided to use reusable glass bottles and deliver it to homes in the area, just like other local dairies had done since the early 1900s in the Middletown Valley.
It was a huge and expensive process to build the production plant on their farm, but they worked with the state and other similar dairies to construct an adequate building for processing their own dairy products. After the construction was complete, South Mountain Creamery’s first home deliveries began on April 13, 2001. Karen delivered milk to their first 13 customers out of the back of their Ford Explorer. In 2003, Kate Sowers joined the ownership after she married Ben, and they continued to be more involved in both the business and farming side of the company. Word of SMC's offerings began to spread and, by 2004, the team celebrated their 1,000th home delivery customer. Amazingly, all customers were located within a 50-mile radius of the farm.
In 2006, the family was recognized as the “Large Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year” by the Entrepreneur Council of Frederick County. South Mountain Creamery was proud to add new customers from Potomac and Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of Washington, DC.
South Mountain Creamery Kept Pace
In 2007, the SMC processing plant was remodeled by installing refurbished equipment from Yoder Dairies in Virginia Beach, VA - this equipment included the HTST pasteurizer, homogenizer, bottle filler, bottle washer, separator, and milk tanks. South Mountain Creamery was also featured in The New York Times and on the cover of Dairy Business Magazine.
To keep up with the rapid growth, they added ordering and billing to the South Mountain Creamery website. With the addition of over 45 flavors of smooth, creamy ice cream to the delivery menu, the delivery area grew into Falls Church, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland.
In 2011, SMC continued to grow through adding a robotic milking system and a new laying hen house, and their eggs achieved the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® designation. In the midst of their growth, including significant growth at weekend farmer's markets selling their eggs and milk, they also made national news due to an IRS battle. This arose after the IRS seized $295,220 from the company, claiming SMC had gone against the government's "structuring" policy which is in place to prevent money laundering and fraud. This led to a partnership with the Institute of Justice in DC, and Randy Sowers has become a voice for many farmers all over the US, from whom the IRS has seized funds upwards of half a billion dollars despite no criminal activity or accusations. The IRS returned all but 10% of the funds after Randy signed an agreement, and he continues to advocate nationally for fair treatment of farmers.
In 2016, SMC plans to move into a brand new delivery area in Philadelphia, PA.
Through tornadoes, fires, and recessions, the Sowers’ have continued fulfilling their dream to provide the freshest and highest quality products to consumers in the region. The original delivery vehicle has been exchanged for 15 delivery trucks, home deliveries are now near 9,000, and South Mountain Creamery hosts two farm festivals each year that draw about 5,000 people to each one. Our calves and chicks are also in the spotlight - featured on Animal Planet L!VE for a worldwide audience.
“We have been very blessed with Sowers Dairy and South Mountain Creamery, and we owe it all to you! You’re our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and customers who have shared your experiences, helped recruit new customers, and have truly made every moment worthwhile. Thanks to your support; we look forward to continuing our story for many years to come. God bless!”
~ Randy and Karen Sowers
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