It’s just after 7 a.m. and a milk-hauling truck is slowly climbing the gravel drive toward the milking parlor at Garvin Farms, north of Cedar. Two or three times a week, John and Anne Hoyt of Leelanau Cheese make the trek in their truck, aptly named “The Milky Way,” to the Garvins’ immaculately-kept dairy farm along Lakeshore Drive. Here, the Hoyts draw two test samples of the farm’s fresh milk from a stainless tank before loading the truck with what will soon be made into Swiss Raclette and, in summer, Fromage Blanc cheeses.
When asked how they happened to pick Garvin Farms as their milk supplier, John Hoyt replies without skipping a beat: “You won’t find a cleaner operation like this anywhere, hands down.”
On this trip, the Hoyts haul away 300 gallons or 2,863 lbs. (milk weighs 8.6 lbs. per gallon) of the morning’s milking yield of 3,000 lbs. The balance will be picked up by Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA), a cooperative of dairy farmers. Denis Garvin, who manages the farm with the help of his wife, Joan, says his milk will end up at Yoplait yogurt’s facility in Reed City.
Once known as Starlight Farms, the third-generation Garvin family farm overlooks the south end of South Lake Leelanau, with a wide-angle view of the opposite shore and the distant, former ski hill known as Timberlee. Garvin’s great-grandfather immigrated here from Germany, and his son, John, (Garvin’s grandfather), bought the property in 1916. John planted cherries and apples and, like most homesteaders of the time, had some milk cows for the family’s use. Garvin recalls being told that his grandfather pulled the horses that brought the first electric line through the Cedar area in the ’30s or ’40s.