Making It: It's all about better butter at Minerva Dairy
Makers: Venae Watts and Adam Mueller
Business: Minerva Dairy, a 5th generation family-owned dairy and butter-making business in operation since 1894
Give us the lowdown on your family history, because that’s a big part of your business and why you’re here.
Venae: Minerva Dairy was founded in 1894 by our founding father Max P. Radloff in Wisconsin. We had multiple family farms, and he brought the family farms together to make cheese and butter in one location. From that, he grew multiple locations across Ohio and Wisconsin and ended up with a final location being here in Minerva, Ohio. The business then went to his son, Roland, and was handed down in the 3rd generation to his granddaughter, Lorraine. And that's why we're not ‘Radloff and Sons’, because the first thing she did when she took ownership was remove the ‘Radloff and Sons’ and name it Minerva Dairy.
Founding father Max P. Radloff and family circa 1894. [Minerva Dairy]
As the 5th generation owners now, how did you come into the family business?
Adam: We’ve been a part of the family business since as long as we can remember. Whether it was unloading milk or packaging butter, we had our chores when we were little and we would come in. One of our earliest memories was having Christmas morning in the receiving bay and opening our presents while our father was unloading milk trucks. So the business has been part of us from our earliest memories.
Family photo with Adam Mueller and Venae Watts in 1983 with their father, Phil, mother, Polly, and grandmother, Lorraine. [Minerva Dairy]
Having been such a fixture in the area for so many years, can you speak about what your company means to the community here?
Adam: One of the main things that’s important to the community is the family farms that we buy milk from. We're dependent upon them to supply the milk here locally as equally as they are dependent upon us to have a local place to deliver their milk to. Freight today is becoming more and more of a concern, so having the local supply is very important.
Venae: We all work together. It's really nice, and it's a good working relationship that's lasted. And we're kind of unique in that these kinds of small farms all centralized together only occurs in northeast Ohio. It doesn't occur across the country anywhere else. So while other areas were growing larger, and larger farms were happening, I guess northeast Ohio didn't get that memo, and we just stayed doing what we do each generation through each generation. And that made us now unique.
Mueller and Watts with one of their butter churners. [Minerva Dairy]
And something else that makes you unique is how you make your butter?
Adam: One of the exciting things for us is that we preserve the way we make our butter and are making butter the same way today as we made it over 100 years ago. At the same time, though, we have to keep into consideration efficiencies and how we package the product. And so now we've had a really nice time building our lines out and being able to produce more butter as the country has found that the importance of 85% fat butter, artisanal butter making, we are very different than the commodity product that is also available. And so we've been enjoying keeping to our roots at the same time as being able to produce to meet our customer base.
The production line of year's past. [Minerva Dairy]
That’s got to be cool knowing that what you’re making here and what you’ve spent your lives making goes out to all kinds of customers all over the nation to enjoy.
Venae: It's really neat to hear when people like reach out and say, ‘Hey, I found your butter!’ or they tag us on social media saying, ‘I'm using it in the kitchen making popcorn with your butter!’ Or this time of year, the favorite thing to do with butter is to rub it all over the turkey because it creates a really nice, moist turkey. So I’ll get pictures of people like, ‘Look what I'm doing, slathering the turkey up with your butter!’ So love it when I reach out and I can hear that, ‘Hey, I'm sharing it with my family and you're sharing it with yours.’ And that's kind of a cool connection.
Watts and Mueller with their parents and children, the future generation of Minerva Dairy. [Minerva Dairy]