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Missouri’s own cheese whiz

Agri-Ready Profile: Nathan Hemme adds value to dairy with craft cheese.

June 4, 2024

3 Min Read
Nathan Hemme, Missouri dairy farmer dumps bucket of pizza cheese
NEW VENTURE: Missouri dairy farmer Nathan Hemme dumps pizza cheese at Hemme Brothers Creamery in Sweet Springs, Mo. The value-added journey propelled the family farm to success and built a foundation for its generational sustainability.Photos by Rob Mattson, Noble Research Institute

by Emma Alexander

Nathan Hemme grew up on his family’s traditional dairy farm, but he felt a strain on their farm to grow and thrive.

Working with his parents, sister and three brothers to manage and care for a milking cow herd, they saw an opportunity to create a new market through cheese-making. So, they opened Hemme Brothers Creamery in 2016.

Located near Sweet Springs, Mo., in Agri-Ready-designated Saline County, Hemme Brothers products are crafted by the family “from crop to cream to curd.”

Nathan and his father, David, create and market the fresh and aged handmade cheeses from the farm’s milk.

His brother, Michael, cares for the cow herd, ensuring they are producing milk high in butterfat and protein to yield rich, flavorful cheeses. The cows are fed grain, hay and grass that is grown by Nathan’s brother, Jon.

The value-added journey of Hemme Brothers Creamery propelled their family farm to success and built a foundation for its generational sustainability.

Grow the dairy business

Value-added agricultural products contribute $500.4 million annually to the Saline County economy, according to the 2021 Missouri Economic Contribution of Agriculture and Forestry Study.

Today, the creamery has grown to incor­porate 10 additional employees. Thoughtful creamery design and wise equipment choices foster food safety and cleanliness. With safety and quality under control, Nathan Hemme intentionally focuses on customer satisfaction.

“We talk to our customers constantly,” he says. “We attend farmers markets in Overland Park, Kan. and Columbia, Mo., each Saturday, where we get feedback from a total of 12,000 to 18,000 customers each week.”

In response to customer demand, Hemme Brothers Creamery product lines boast 10 flavors of cheese curds, seven flavors of cheddar, pizza cheese, dairy feta and Quark, a German spreadable cheese. They also make fresh, hand-stretched mozzarella each Friday from Memorial Day until Labor Day, which sells out each weekend.

Expand for demand

In 2023, Hemme Brothers Creamery was awarded a Show-Me Entrepreneurial Grant for Agriculture Innovation through the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority, housed in the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Hemme Brothers Creamery used its SEGA grant to make more cheese in less time by adding equipment to increase capacity. The creamery’s boosted efficiency allows Hemme to add a new production line for pizza cheese.

“The SEGA grant was timely for us,” he says. “We wanted to be able to expand our capacity to process all our own milk.”

Hemme Brothers Creamery can now process the 1.5 million pounds of milk produced on the family’s farm this year. The equipment expansions made possible by the SEGA grant will support processing and production of up to 3 million pounds of milk each year as market demand grows.

As demand for cheese increases, the family looks to expand their milking cow herd to produce more pounds of milk to fill the market.

Change to sustain

Looking back, Hemme can see a big difference between his upbringing on a traditional family dairy farm and the family business in which he now is part owner.

“We had hard times growing up. My parents had no control over the price of milk, very little control of the cost of inputs,” he reflects. “Now we can grow our business knowing how much income we need to make per hundred pounds of milk we produce. The biggest difference between then and now is the economic sustainability of our family business.”

Hemme, his wife and four children live on a farm just north of Emma, Mo. They enjoy being involved in family activities with their church and school organizations.

Hemme Brothers Creamery is a member of the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Missouri Grown program. The Hemme family are supporters of Midwest Dairy, a partner of Missouri Farmers Care.

Alexander writes from Olga, Mo.

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