I followed her to Horstmeyer Feed and Garden Store, where I met her husband, Justin, and her mother-in-law, Annie. Horstmeyer is a family-run store
in Sanford, Florida, that makes you feel like you have stepped back into Laura
Ingalls’ time with its weathered old-wood floors, handlaid brick walls, and
beautiful worn beam ceilings. The atmosphere is warm and you just want to
stay awhile and look around.
My boys and I kept visiting the feed store for various items over the next year,
and then I heard that Shanna Rae had a dairy cow and was selling milk at the
feed store. This intrigued me so much that I had to call her up and find out
about it. She invited us over to see her budding farm and meet Georgia, the
dairy cow. She said if I wanted to see the process and join in on the early morning fun, the milking began at 6: 45 a.m.
The morning of our visit, I dragged my family out of bed at 5 a.m. and into the
worst fog I have ever seen. We were late getting to the farm because of visibility
and I thought for sure we had missed the morning milking. When we finally
pulled in, the Horstmeyer family came bounding out of their home, rubber
boots and all, to greet us. The fog had prevented Shanna Rae from getting started on time too, so we were able to jump in and see how it all worked.
The milk house and stanchion is a short walk from their back door. Shanna
Rae’s cute little milk house is just big enough to hold a refrigerator, freezer,
and the equipment for her milking machine, which looked like an oversized
stainless steel milk can. Oh, and there was a tub full of baby chicks, of course!
Shanna Rae looked as if she had been doing this all her life and, with a big smile
on her face, sterilized her equipment and got to work. Georgia the cow came
right up and was ready to be milked.
As we stood around watching Shanna Rae work, Justin shared with me how
none of this was on their radar when they bought the property. His wife began
taking an interest in a dairy cow, and it fit well to begin selling the milk in the
feed store.* Now that they have discovered how much they enjoy it, they have
added beef cattle and pigs to their products. Justin also let me know that Shanna Rae dressed up for the occasion of our visit. She usually does the milking in
The milking process took about thirty minutes from start to final clean-up of
the machine. Georgia gave about three gallons of milk, even with an audience.
Shanna Rae poured it up in half-gallon mason jars, put a label on the top, and
Justin loaded them in his truck along with a few dozen eggs to take to work.
My family and I went inside their home along with their boys, Nickolas and
Taylor. They told us their mom had made her famous chocolate chip cookies
and these would be a nice breakfast treat for us. Even though it was 7: 30 a.m., I
never turn down a homemade cookie. It was the perfect time to talk a bit about
their budding farm and what their long-term plans were.