q&a with hartzler family dairy

I think I’m going to enjoy my glass of eggnog this season even more now after finishing this Q&A with Janice Steiner, the youngest sibling in the Hartzler Family Dairy clan.

 1) How did your family get into dairy farming? It was a ‘birth right’. My father began managing his father’s farm at the age of 17.  After my parents married, they bought a farm of their own.  We were all raised on that same farm.  My Dad’s love for the land and his passion for farming ‘as nature intended’ were instilled in all of us.  My parents, Harold and Patricia, have been farming in Ohio’s Wayne County since 1952.  During their 58 plus years in marriage and agriculture they also raised six sons and two daughters. Our family, our faith and our farms are interwoven into each of our lives.

2) Why did you stop using chemicals on the farm? In the 1950’s and early 60’s, my father was using chemicals on his farm –just as many of his neighbors were doing.  But as time went by, he noticed a few things.  First was the poor health of his cows and many of his calves being sick.  Second, he noticed that the soil on the farm was getting harder and harder.  And last, he noticed that the earthworms were scarce – proving to my dad that the life in the soil was not what it should be.  After an incident with chemical run off in the field and the other problems, my dad knew that he needed to make a change.  In 1964, he quit using chemicals on his fields.  This began a long, ten-year process of returning the land to natural farming.  Today, my father’s passion continues in helping other farmers and garden enthusiasts transition from a conventional farmer (one that uses chemicals) to one who uses no chemicals.  He has taught his sons the value of caring for the land and now they continue the Hartzler Farming Tradition, using no chemicals or artificial hormones on their farms.

3) How many family members are actively involved in the farm today? Our parents along with all 8 siblings and our spouses are co-owners of Hartzler Family Dairy.  Four of my brothers also own and operate their own farms.  (All the milk that is processed in our plant comes only from the family farms.)  We currently employ – either FT or PT – 13 family members.  They are office workers, plant managers, delivery drivers, Ice Cream Shoppe manager and front counter workers. 

4) How many cows do you own? The total herd of milking cows is 180.  These are Holstein cows and are housed on 3 different family farms.  In addition, each farm raises their own calves to sustain or add to their herds. 

5) If you weren’t farming, what would you be doing? With farming being such an important part of our lives, it’s hard to imagine life without it.  Most of us that are farmers did have other jobs before we settled back down on the farm. 

6) How did you learn to make ice cream?  How long and what is most requested flavor? Growing up, we’d often help make ice cream on the back porch, with each of us having to take our turn with the hand cranked churn.  After opening the Dairy in 1996, we began perfecting our Premium Ice Cream recipe. Today we make over 50 flavors of ice cream, with some being seasonal flavors—and always having 26 of those flavors available daily at our Ice Cream Shoppe in Wooster.  Our most requested flavor is Vanilla, of course, followed closely by our Signature Flavor “Heifer Trails” (Reese’s Peanut Butter ice cream with chocolate chips and peanut butter swirl).  Third is our premium “Butter Pecan”.

7) When did you introduce eggnog, why and what’s unique about Hartzlers? The story behind our eggnog is very simple.  As we began searching for something to help supplement the slow months of November to February, a vendor suggested we try eggnog.  And since we loved eggnog – that was easy!  With his help, we secured a great recipe and the rest is history.  We began in 2000 producing 1300 gallons. This year, we’re on track to make over 6,000 gallon (24,000 quart) of eggnog. Our Premium Egg Nog has become a holiday tradition on many tables.  It is thick, rich and made with Hartzler’s milk and bottled in glass. There is nothing like it. CF note: Eggnog available @ Heinen’s.

8) Favorite eggnog recipe?  Straight up! Since alcohol is not consumed in our family, we enjoy the pure flavor of our Eggnog.  However, we have been told that it’s even better mixed with rum.  We’ll leave that up to our customers.

9) Last meal on earth? My favorite meal would come straight out of my mom’s kitchen:  Poor man’s steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, homemade bread, peaches and homemade chocolate pudding with whipped cream.  Now, mind you, most of this meal was produced on the farm – the meat, veggies, fruit, milk and cream.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

10) What could a visitor expect? If you plan to visit our Ice Cream Shoppe and retail store, you will find us just north of Wooster on Rt 3.  You can view all of the 26 flavors of ice cream and sample a few, purchase our milk and butter as well other local products.  Enjoy a sandwich and salad or a homemade cup of soup and muffin.  Chances are, someone behind the counter is a family member, just ask.  We’re open Monday-Saturday, 11am – 7pm.  Group tours are available by appointment only.  (Group tours for 15 or more people, Monday – Friday 10am – 5pm and includes a virtual tour with a complimentary ice cream cone.)

11) Some challenges facing your industry today? Since the price of milk has dropped so low, it’s been hard on our farmers.  It’s important that we help our family farms survive and thrive.  Global competition is also a concern with the United States importing milk from other countries.

12) Something about your farm that someone would be surprised to learn? On one of our farms, the cows actually lay on specially made beds. Our cows are free to graze in the pasture and do so starting early spring through late fall.

13) Favorite restaurant in Cleveland? Since most of us farm, it’s hard to go very far.   We do frequent the locally owned restaurants in our area.  My favorite?  The South Market Bistro in Wooster. 

14) Cleveland Chefs that we work with? We work with many great people.  Some of those are the chefs at Case Western Reserve, Fire Food & Drink (see Food & Wine nod here), Walden Country Club and Tommy’s Restaurant.  Of course, Parker Bosley has been a great friend of Hartzler’s since our opening in 1996.

15) Why not certified organic? It’s been said that our dad was ‘organic’ before organic was cool.  We truly believe in farming the way nature intended.  That has lead us to establish the Hartzler Farming Tradition as local, grass fed, chemical-free, artificial hormone-free farms.  We strive to produce the best dairy products — from the soil to the bottle.  We believe that the Hartzler difference is also in the way that our milk is treated once it enters the processing plant.  Our milk is treated with utmost care – only the lowest of temperature is used in our pasteurization and we do not homogenize (breaking down the cream).  This allows Hartzler’s to offer one of the most natural milks possible. The health benefits of Hartzler’s milk are well known. Many testimonials have praised Hartzler’s milk – from those who are lactose intolerant to mothers who choose our milk for their babies.     

16) Describe the milk making process? From the farm to the bottle it usually takes less than 48 hours. Once it is bottled, it is usually in the store within 24-48 hours later.  All totaled – it takes an average of 3-4 days from the cow to the shelf. Hartzler milk is picked up from the farms in our own milk truck and taken to our processing plant.  There the milk is stored in a receiving tank.  Early in the morning the plant is busy as they prepare for processing.  First step is to heat the milk in a vat pasteurizer.  These vat pasteurizers allow us to heat the milk at a lower temperature than most dairies, leaving as much nutrition in the milk as possible.  It is cooled quickly, bottled and stored in our cooler.  The Hartzler trucks are then loaded with the fresh milk and will make deliveries the next day to many stores, restaurants and colleges throughout Ohio. Hartzler milk is not homogenized (breaking down the cream) and this allows for your body to process the cream (fat content) naturally. There are many doctors who recognize the health benefits of unhomogenized milk.

17) What’s it like being #8 in the family? I truly enjoy having a large family.  But I’m sure that I often thought that I had too many brothers while growing up.  And since my only sister was #2 and we had 5 brothers between us, I was often told that I was a bit spoiled. There are certainly many memories from the farm.   The first is when my brothers made a hay tunnel for me and after I got into it, they shut the entrance up so that I couldn’t find my way out.  Luckily I could hear them laughing and knew that something was amiss. The other memory is of Christmas on the farm.   What a special time of year as we anticipated our Christmas Eve meal and opening presents.  There are hardly words to describe the scents and sounds of our home during that season.  We still to this day have such wonderful holidays together. Maybe that’s why our Eggnog tastes so good… it’s made with lots of great memories in mind!

This post was sponsored by Heinen’s, a proud carrier of Hartzler Eggnog.


  1. steve
    Posted December 4, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    They do make a very good eggnog which makes an acceptable substitute for my favorite which comes from another family dairy in southeastern Michigan, Calder’s Dairy. Calder’s is almost too thick too drink. And either one tastes great with a little Rum or Bourbon mixed in.

  2. Posted December 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Its too funny, because I was just extolling the virtues of this eggnog on my FB list.

    Though the very best part about this operation is that the butchers shop where I get mine will give you refills in the same bottle. Which is totally cool and also green. I don’t know if they do it for eggnog, but they do it for the chocolate milk :)

  3. Posted December 5, 2009 at 12:02 am | Permalink


    It’s definitely worth a trip down to Wooster to try Heifer Trails too! It’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

  4. Amy Rosea
    Posted September 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Great post on Cleveland Foodie. I like to have consistent good meat that is healthy. I don’t live in Cleveland. Luckily for me I’m still able to get grass fed beef. A great place to go if you want to have grass-fed steaks delivered, is LaCense Beef. They only sell high quality, grass fed beef. While I do work for them, they are genuinely the best steaks. I wouldn’t buy anything else because not only do they taste great, but they are so much healthier for you than the alternatives.

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