HILDALE —Joseph and Taylor Barlow went into business a year ago, keeping their day jobs while piling a farm-load of extra work on their plate
The father-son duo, an electrical contractor and police officer, respectively, have owned Finney Farm since September of 2020. The Hildale-based business specializes in raw milk, raw butter, raw cream, raw milk cheese, cream-top yogurt and small-batch frozen yogurt. More recently, they’ve added grass-fed beef to their wares.
The ranch in Hildale, home to some 41 milking cows, is named after the original owner, Winford “Finney” Barlow. It has a few distinguishing features, one of which is its idyllic locale. The ranch, located on land abutting the backside of Zion, offers a stunning view of red cliffs and a wide-open sky.
Finney Farm is also unique in that they use Brown Swiss cows rather than the Holstein cows more commonly employed on dairy farms. Holstein cows produce more milk, but Brown Swiss cows produce more cream. Appropriately enough, Brown Swiss calves, one of which was welcomed just last week, start life with a cream-colored coat that darkens as they get older.
Milk from Brown Swiss cows is also said to be better for cheese-making. Cheese, from basic cheddar to aged artisanal, is one of Finney Farm’s staples. Some of their crowd-pleasing varieties include plain and seasoned squeaky cheese, braided smoked mozzarella and cheeses flavored with jalapeno, berries and even beer, sourced from the Edge of the World Brewery in Hildale.
The milk and cream produced by Finney Farm is unpasteurized. It goes straight from the cows being milked via a tube to a vat where it’s flash-chilled, bottled and kept cold. It has a shorter shelf-life than milk in regular stores and also costs a bit more, because of the smaller scale of production and the fluctuating price of the hay fed to the cows.
Milk at the Hildale shop, located at 1320 N. Canyon St. which looks like a tiny red barn, currently costs about $7. The same gallon costs about $9 at the Finney Farm Store in St. George at 511 E. St. George Blvd. and a bit more than that at the Cedar City location at 755 S. Main St.
Along with milk, cream and cheese, you can also buy yogurt and ice cream, which are farm-fresh but pasteurized for a longer shelf-life. Finney Farm stores also stock organic foods produced by other businesses, including local honey and elderberry syrup, jams and tinctures produced by Elderberry Family Farms of Payson, Utah.
A raw deal
Proponents of raw milk and dairy say it tastes better and is healthier than regular, store-bought milk.
“Pasteurization does kill bacteria, but it also kills vitamins that you need,” Joseph Barlow said. “The way I look at it is, ‘How did God make the milk come out of the cow?’ It came out the way that it comes out. I think it’s better for you.”
Along with helping the body better absorb nutrients like calcium, iron and vitamins B and A, Joseph Barlow says raw milk suits many people with allergies. He’s had customers who are lactose intolerant tell him they can drink Finney Farm milk with no trouble, likely because raw milk spurs the production of lactase enzyme in the intestinal tract.
The Barlows say their products are healthy because their cows are healthy. Finney Farm’s grass-fed cows are never given soy, artificial hormones or antibiotics. They have room to mingle and are rotated out to allow the cows to have calves and restore their milk-giving capacities.
Raw milk also has its opponents. Sale of raw milk is banned in 20 states on the grounds that it might contain bacteria that can make people sick. Utah takes a more open-minded approach. It allows dairy farms producing raw milk to sell their products, but only at stores owned by the farm. It’s also mandated that raw milk be sold within 9 days of being milked.
The Barlows’ options were expanded in August of 2020 when then-governor Gary Herbert signed a bill legalizing the sale of raw butter and cream.
Growing an agricultural business
Is launching into a new business just as a pandemic starts to be disastrously bad timing? The Barlows don’t think so. They have seen the opposite effect as Joseph Barlow estimates sales have gone up about 20 percent as COVID-19 has made more people interested in shoring up their health, particularly their immune system.
With talk of supply chain shortages dominating the news in recent months, Joseph said it’s a great time to buy local.
“Especially when you have a nation of unrest, there’s a comfort to know that you have a dairy in town or a farm in town,” he said. “I think that’s always a good thing when you fill the unrest.”
The Barlows have never operated a ranch of this size. They had a learning curve when it came to operating their on-site cheese processing plant and other machinery. Still, they didn’t come in completely cold.
Joseph Barlow grew up in the Salt Lake area before moving to Hildale 30 years ago. As a kid, milking the family cow was one of his chores. As an adult, he’s raised beef, pigs and cows, so Taylor Barlow’s growing-up years had a rural flavor as well.
Working with his dad goes pretty smoothly, Taylor Barlow said. When he was younger, he worked at his dad’s electrical contracting business. Joseph Barlow said they bring different strengths to their latest enterprise.
“Taylor has more of the business mind. I’m more of the herdman mind,” he said.
Both father and son are always thinking of ways to grow their business. They’d like to expand Finney Farm products further north in the state, and hope to get products like their artisanal cheese onto the menus of fine dining establishments in the region. They also plan to one day expand their Hildale location.
“We’d like to build a new store and get rid of the little store,” Joseph Barlow said. “We could sell soft-serve and in the summer, or when it’s cold, you can come in and eat your ice cream. Being right here at the mouth of the canyon, we figure we can grow more by just building a bigger store here.”
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