Few success stories start with a glass of milk. Even fewer with kefir, the oldest cultured milk product known to man. It's a tart and yeasty cross between buttermilk and yogurt, a favorite of Warren Taylor, founder of Snowville Creamery, a small dairy production plant in Pomeroy, Ohio. He hoists a glass of the homemade concoction every morning.
The powerful probiotic-rich beverage energizes Taylor to keep up with the demands of work, and it gives him the ethical drive to continue converting consumers to his brand's philosophy. The engineer and entrepreneur was raised by an award-winning organoleptic evaluator, or someone who judges dairy products by tasting them; thus everything that Taylor produces at his plant has taste at the forefront.
Taylor garnered acclaim in the dairy industry as a technologist or engineer in his own right. "By the time I was 31 years old, I was involved in the third brand-new milk plant for Safeway, and it was my own design," he explains. "It was one of the largest and the most modern milk plants in America."
From there, the progressive milkman started a consulting firm with clients ranging from Dannon and Yoplait to Land O'Lakes. When he retired at 55, a move to southeast Ohio with his wife Victoria led to a fateful meeting.
"Bill [Dix] and Stacey [Hall] were real pioneers and leaders in getting cows back on grass," he says. "They started a national organization called the Prograsstinators that helped catalyze grass-based dairy farming that's now the foundation of America's organic dairy industry." His colleagues were featured in Food Inc. and continue to supply his creamery with grass-fed A2 milk, which contains predominantly a type of protein that has been bred out of modern milk.
They call it "milk the way it used to be" and preach the advantages of restorative agriculture. Grass grazing cows help replenish soil carbon, which means that the earth can retain more water. "A one-percent change in the level of carbon within the soil gives that soil a breathtaking increase of 20,000 gallons of water storage capacity per acre," Taylor explains. "There is no arguing but that we have to do agriculture that takes the soil levels in American soil from the one to two percent it has now back to the five to eight percent level it was at when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth."
Students at the Ohio State University may remember Taylor passing out chocolate milk on campus over the past decade, to build an awareness of his company. Today, Snowville's milk can be purchased in Heinen's, Earth Fare and Giant Eagle in the Greater Cleveland area. But drink up: These cultured dairy products have a shelf life of about 14 days versus your average milk jug that is pasteurized to the point that it stays good for weeks.
With a total of 500 cows spread over five farms, Snowville is able to play a major role for their distributor, Premier Produce One, which distributes them to a growing number of restaurants throughout Cleveland. Little by little, Taylor is converting customers to A2 milk based on taste and health benefits.
Taylor thinks back to when he first started in the industry: "Milk was a lot better at that time. What most people are not tuned into is that during the course of human history, our relationship with animals was based on our selectively breeding for thousands of years based on their longevity and fertility. In doing that, we ended up with the animals that we brought into the 20th century."
You can hear Taylor speak on the subject April 13 at 5 p.m. in the Wolstein Research Building (2103 Cornell Rd.). His talk is part of Case Western Reserve University's Food Week.