Morning Star Farm now makes cheese, ice cream

July 28, 2008

Owner Daniel Lemke hopes to make award-winning cheeses

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

After retiring from being a chemist and managing a research group for Cargill, Daniel Lemke decided to follow his dream of becoming a dairy farmer and making quality cheese.

Lemke and his family moved from Pennsylvania to a farm northwest of Cokato in 2001.

He decided to follow the adage, “Choose what you like,” which in this case, was eating, specifically, natural products like cheese and ice cream.

Not only does Lemke enjoy eating, but he enjoys the science of food – quality-tasting food that is, he said.

Since cheese is very difficult to process, Lemke decided he was up for the challenge, and he hopes one day he will have made some prize-winning cheeses.

After months of remodeling and equipping his barn for cheese operations, Morning Star Farm was ready for production in April.

In order to make good cheese, one needs quality dairy cows. Lemke currently has around 25 Brown Swiss Holsteins, that are 100 percent pastured on a rotational grazing system.

Lemke insists the best cheeses are made from Brown Swiss Holsteins, especially if they are grazed and grass-fed cows.

David Nyquist has been instrumental with herd management, which Lemke finds essential to his operation.

Lemke also found the finest tradesmen in the area to do the extensive design work for the building where he makes the cheese, he said.

“The building has a lot of technology specifically to make the finest of cheeses,” Lemke said.

With a background in chemistry, making cheese uses much of the knowledge Lemke already has, but for more specifics, he consulted with some of the master cheese makers, he said.

He also gives credit to his wife, Janelle.

“My wife is my inspiration,” Lemke said. “She inspires me to run the race,” he added.

With Lemke focusing on aged cheese, quality cheese takes time, he said.

Lemke has already made Finnish Red Cheese, or Juusto, as well as gouda, parmesan, edam, and more.

Since aged cheese is lower in fat, Lemke needed an outlet for cream. He decided to use the extra cream to make ice cream.

This summer, Lemke has been and will be selling his ice cream at local fairs including Wright, Meeker, and McLeod county fairs.

This also happens to be the only hand-dipped ice cream scooping trailer in the state, according to Lemke.

What he likes about this side operation is, “Everyone always comes smiling,” Lemke said.

Sunny Road is the name of his business. Lemke thought it went well with the name of his farm, Morning Star. Sunny Road is derived from the hymn song “Stepping in the Light,” combined with the farm’s name, which is derived from the proverb, “The path of righteous is like the gleam of dawn,” according to Lemke.

“The morning star is sometimes referred to as the ‘first gleam of dawn,’” he explained.

Lemke considers this venture as a platform to do God’s work.

“How many people do you think I will talk to? A lot,” Lemke said, explaining he is not in this for the money. If anything, he hopes to just break even and maybe in the process, make some award-winning cheeses.

Lemke makes ice cream from all- natural products including cane sugar, Holland cocoa, Madagascar vanilla, as well as all natural flavors.

Aside from ice cream, Lemke makes Italian ice, which uses non-dairy products and is popular in Europe, he said.

For more information about Sunny Road products, contact Daniel or Janelle Lemke at (320) 275-0168.

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