HAWKEYE-– Iowa's Governor Terry Branstad has been touring the state this June, networking with Iowa entrepreneurs and their role in economic development.
Thursday, the governor's visit to Country View Dairy saw Branstad tour the yogurt processing facility, where there was an added benefit of sampling creamy yogurt and frozen yogurt made on the farm by the Dave and Carolee Rapson family.
Northeast Iowa folks' support of the 'grown local' movement was a major incentive for the Rapsons to pursue their own state-certified creamery on-site at their dairy on 230th Street, rural Hawkeye.
Yogurt resulted in a value-added product they could market to sustain them through periods of low milk prices. "And if it wasn't for the grown-locally movement in Northeast Iowa, I probably wouldn't have moved ahead with the plan for the creamery," Rapson told Branstad. That was in 2009. Today, the creamery pumps farm fresh rBST-free milk less than 200 feet from the milk house to the creamery, where all-natural, creamy farmstead yogurt is made in a variety of flavors.
The product is marketed to several colleges in Iowa and Minnesota, including Luther in Decorah, as well as Clarke College and University of Dubuque. They also provide dairy products to St. Olaf and Carleton College in Minnesota. Twelve public schools in Iowa and Minnesota also serve Country View yogurt.
Asked about the challenges the business has faced, Rapson said there have been a few. While Country View yogurt is sold at Fareway stores and local groceries including Gavin's and Quillin's, he said it has been difficult to convince another Iowa-based grocery chain to distribute the product. The company cites lack of shelf space. Rapson also mentioned that universities whose food services are operated by national chains, pose greater stumbling blocks to making the yogurt available in the food service line.
Country View Dairy's newest product is a twenty pound frozen yogurt soft-serve mix that works in any soft-serve ice cream machine. Made from the Rapsons' own yogurt and non-homogenized milk, it's available in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, blueberry cheesecake, lemon custard, Dulce de Leche (caramel) and orange creme. A sea salt caramel flavor will be added soon, Rapson said.
Fro-yo features a 15% yogurt to 85% milk mix that results in lower fat than ice cream, said Bob Howard, the company's marketing director. The governor declared both yogurt and fro-yo dairy treats 'delicious' as he left the Rapson farm Thursday.
Branstad's office on Wednesday announced Iowa Workforce Development received a $6 million Department of Labor grant to assist with placing 1,500 dislocated Iowans in rapidly growing, apprenticeship based occupations in high-demand industries.
The governor said a common theme heard from owner-managers of Iowa companies during his visits across the state, is the need for skilled employees matching the job openings companies offer.
"This grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will help match Iowans with apprenticeships to advance their training, making them more qualified for careers in Iowa," he said.