Hardestys hand over Cozy Cow educational dairy to Nebraska couple
If Les Hardesty had more hours in his day – a lot more – maybe he could have made it all work.
That’s not reality.
Running about a 700-head dairy operation and serving as a Western Dairy Association director – not to mention sitting on the U.S. Dairy Export Council as a chairman, serving as a chair for National Dairy Council Chair, and being a second vice chairman with the United Dairy Industry Association – one might understand why the dairyman and his wife, Sherrill, had to give up their time somewhere to fulfill their many commitments.
They did so by handing over operations of their Cozy Cow Dairy – a retail ice cream and dairy store, located on Weld County Road 17 just north of U.S. 34, where dairy products go from the 40 cows on that property to the store’s dairy cases within 24 hours, and where daily educational tours of the farm, facility and process are offered to thousands of school children each year, as well as curious families.
“It’s been a lot of fun and it’ll be tough, but it was time to do it,” said Les, who started Cozy Cow with Sherrill in 2004, primarily to create an educational dairy, and then over time made it much more.
“We’ve had a great time running it. We’ll definitely miss seeing all the kids and the families that come to the farm. But it was just getting to a point where it was hard to do everything.
“At the same time though, I’m very happy in that giving this up provides someone else an opportunity.”
Now in charge of operations are husband and wife Marc Pfister and Caille Gash – moving from Nebraska to run the store and dairy processing side of things – and Les and Sherrill’s 23-year-old daughter, Marci, who will take charge of the day-to-day milking operations on the property.
“We’re just thrilled to be here,” said Gash, who studied food sciences at the University of California-Davis, has several years of experience in processing dairy foods, taught middle school for 10 years and whose interest in dairy production dates back to her childhood. “For whatever reason, the process has always just fascinated me. I’d been wanting to a start my own business like this for a while, and this just kind of fell into our lap. I can’t wait to see what we can do out here.”
Gash and Pfister, who met in California while both were attending UC-Davis, came into contact with the Hardestys when they responded to an ad earlier this year regarding the dairy processing equipment the Hardestys were selling.
“We came here to talk about buying the equipment, conversations just kind of progressed, and then we were moving here to take things over before we knew it,” Gash said. “It all came together quickly.”
Gash and Pfister bought all of the equipment, but are leasing the building from the Hardestys.
A lifelong lover and student of dairy processing, Gash said she already has plenty of ideas for new products to offer customers at Cozy Cow – a business that already has milk, various cheeses, cheese curds, many ice cream flavors and other products, all made fresh on site. However, she said she won’t get too carried away in new creations just yet, while she’s still getting her feet wet at the new business.
Pfister doesn’t have quite the extensive background in the industry his wife possesses, but said he’s excited to be venturing into the new business.
“It’s something new,” he said. “And I think we’ll enjoy it.”
Gash is happy her husband is onboard, as well, as he possesses the know-how to work on the machinery at the facility, and can handle website operations, in addition to helping out with the dairy processing.
Meanwhile, Marci Hardesty brings plenty of know-how to the milking side of the operation, having grown up helping her parents on the farm,and having earned a degree in dairy sciences at Utah State University.
“I have no doubt that everything will be in good hands,” Les said. “They all know what they’re doing. While we’ll miss it, we’re really excited at the same time for the future of Cozy Cow.”