Local Creamery Is a Longtime Dream For Owners Tom & Sally Waitt
Tom and Sally Waitt purchased their Sheridan dairy farm in 1983, adopting a business model that many other small farms followed at the time. They sold Dandy Breeze Farm’s milk to a co-op for processing and distribution. That way of doing business proved to be effective for their farm and the dairy farming industry overall.
Over time, however, small farms like the Waitts’ found it increasingly difficult to compete with large farms. Five hundred cows seemed to be the minimum to make milk distribution financially feasible, Tom Waitt says. Dandy Breeze Farm has about 85.
Determined to succeed amidst this sea change in agriculture, the couple switched up the way they do business. In 2017, they began operating their own on-site creamery. From growing the cows’ food to shipping the bottled milk, Dandy Breeze does it all.
The result is fresher milk that’s distributed locally — and a way of farming that the Waitts hope will inspire future generations.
“I always ask people if they’ve seen the movie ‘Hoosiers,’” Tom says. “There’s a line toward the end where he says, ‘Let’s win this game for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here.’ I’m doing this for the small farmer who never got a chance to sell their own milk.”
No surprise Tom turns to a basketball movie for his analogy. His farm, built more than a century ago, boasts a hayloft with a basketball half-court and goal where the Waitts’ three sons and daughter frequently played while growing up.
Dandy Breeze Farm produces, processes and ships milk directly to coffee shops, college dining services, hospitals and mom-and-pop grocers in Central Indiana. Dandy Breeze Creamery also sells milk online. From 9 a.m.-noon on Saturdays, that milk, produced only hours earlier, is available for pickup at the dairy.
It’s more than local distribution that sets Dandy Breeze milk apart. Jersey cows produce the milk sold from the Waitts’ dairy. The cows eat alfalfa grown at the Dandy Breeze. Using a process called wet wrapping, the Waitts preserve their alfalfa so the cows can continue to eat it even during the winter.
The result, according to Tom, is milk that tastes better and is better for you. While most commercially available milk comes from Holsteins, he says, Jerseys’ milk contains more protein, phosphorus and healthy fats. Grass-fed cows also provide milk with natural vitamin D.
Dairy Breeze milk is non-homogenized, meaning its cream remains on the top. When shaken to blend, these healthy fats — no skim or 1% here — are more easily digested, Tom says.
“This is the old school way,” he says of the Dandy Breeze’s milk production. “We’re not trying to take over the world. We just want people to have good milk.”
The Waitts started their dairy by bottling just on weekends. Tom continued his job as a science teacher in Westfield. But as the creamery business grew, the constant demands of operating a farm and dairy led him to leave his teaching job in 2018 and join Sally in focusing solely on the Dandy Breeze business.
Tom, who grew up on a Sheridan farm, and Sally, a Massachusetts native, have been farming together since shortly after they met in an animal science class at Purdue University.
Business for Dandy Breeze Creamery has remained brisk despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The dairy quickly beefed up its focus on online sales and on-site pickup this year. That willingness to once again adapt to change has helped keep Dandy Breeze on course to meet Tom Waitt’s goal of running a sustainable local creamery that one day might branch out to produce additional dairy products.
Dandy Breeze Creamery currently sells white, chocolate and strawberry milk. The dairy also serves up hope for the next generation of farmers, who are looking for ways to succeed in a changing industry.
And that’s important when so many farms are struggling and young people are turning away from agriculture, Waitt says. All of the Waitts’ children, now adults, remain interested in farming but only one still regularly works at the Dandy Breeze.
In 2018 alone, 10% of Indiana dairy farms halted production, leaving a state whose dairy farms once numbered in the thousands down to just 900.
“I’ve had a lot of farmers call me, and I would like to see young people come into farming,” Tom says. “The wave of the future is to know where your food comes from, so we’re at a really good point.”
Dandy Breeze Creamery is located at 2317 N. Road 1100 East in Sheridan. Contact the dairy by phone at 317-508-4978 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more and order online, visit dandybreezedairy.com.