JAMESTOWN — Weston Holler wanted to do something with the family farm.
“College just wasn’t for him right now,” said Weston’s dad, Jamie. “So we just looked at what our options were for a farm our size.”
After some thought, the family decided to start bottling and selling its pasteurized and non-homogenized milk. In December, Holler-View Farm, which had been out of milk production for about 15 years, was officially back in business.
What the Holler family wasn’t expecting, though, was just how quickly the business would take off and that it would do so amid a pandemic.
“Not at all,” Jamie said.
The Holler family now finds itself in a tough position: battling supply and demand, and differently than one might expect.
Holler-View Farm, located in Jamestown and owned and operated by Jamie, Veronica, Sydney and Weston Holler, has plenty of milk to meet its demand. It’s the glass bottles the farm uses to house its milk and the cocoa powder it mixes in to make chocolate milk that are slowing operations. The coronavirus has changed the lead time on those products significantly.
“Our glass bottles actually come from a supplier in Canada and the lead time has gone up substantially,” Jamie said. “I believe they are the only manufacturer in North America, that I can find anyhow, for milk bottles, and everybody needs them. So the lead time has gone through the roof. And then cocoa powder, the lead time has gone up on it also.”
Normal delivery time on the bottles is roughly four weeks.
Holler-View does charge a $2 deposit on its quart and half-gallon bottles that covers the cost of the bottle if it is broken or unreturned. When the bottle is returned to one of Holler-View’s four retailers — Al’s Melons, Conneaut Lake; Meadville Market House; H&H Market Place, Saegertown; and Veados, Greenville — customers receive the $2 back. Many of those bottles were not being returned, which added to Holler-View’s supply issues.
“Being we’re so new, our inventory of bottles wasn’t huge,” Holler said. “We can’t put milk on the shelf if we don’t have a container to put it in. We’ve been fortunate that it seems like the customers are hearing us. We’ve had an in-rush of returns lately. That’s been huge for us.”
Holler-View, which has just under 20 cows producing a total of about 500 gallons of milk a week, has had to dump milk. The farm can only hold the milk in farm tanks for three days before it “times out.” After that time, it has “to be dumped down the drain,” Holler said.
The family did consider a few alternatives to the glass bottles like moving to plastic, but in the end felt it wasn’t in their best interest to do so.
“There’s too much plastic out there,” Holler said. “It just doesn’t fit for us.”
As far as the cocoa supply, Holler said supply is now slowly starting to trickle in and the farm has been able to start producing chocolate milk again while its supply lasts.
“It’s crazy the amount of people who are excited about getting their milk,” Holler said. “You kind of take it for granted. If we continue to put out a great product, it has sustainability.”
Lisa Renwick can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.