Homogenizing and pasteurizing for 40 years
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Left to right: Roger (Rocky) Hahn, son Roger, Jr. and brother, Dean Hahn, celebrated Hahn's Dairy Farm's 40th anniversary on Sept. 17. As hardworking dedicated dairy farmers, they take pride in the quality product they produce and the appreciation their customers extend to them. It's all the celebration they say they need.
There were no balloons. No cake. No party in the barn.
It was just another day at Hahn's Cloverleaf Dairy, Inc. in Palmerton.
Well, not quite.
On Sept. 17, brothers Roger (Rocky) Hahn, 63 and Dean Hahn, 58 both got up just like any other morning and went to work.
But their hearts and hands celebrated their 40th anniversary as owners of the dairy.
In their own way, Rocky and Dean celebrate the dairy every morning when they wake up, knowing they're going to get to do what they love, which is farming, milking cows and selling their own product.
There isn't a day that goes by that they don't celebrate their parents for the gift they gave them of raising them on the farm and the legacy they left them.
That legacy began when Mary and Alvin Hahn rented the farm for several years. In 1947, they bought it, making it their own.
"Mom loved her six kids and her cows. She'd get up in the morning, do the milking and get us ready for school. Then she'd leave to start her job as a school bus driver. She drove bus for the Palmerton School District for 42 years," says Dean proudly.
As in most farm families, the Hahn kids all had their chores on the farm.
"I liked herding the cows. Sometimes Rocky and I would even ride one," says Dean.
When Roger and Dean finished school, they became full-time farmers.
In 1968, Rocky suggested they start selling jug milk. By September 1969, Hahn's Dairy Store opened for business at its location at 1770 Hahn's Dairy Rd. It continues to provide fresh wholesome milk to the surrounding community. Dean says people come as far as the Poconos for their milk. Hahn's is one of only four dairy farms in Carbon County.
The store is open seven days a week, Monday through Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Besides milk, it sells skim milk, orange juice, iced tea, orange drink, ice cream, fresh baked goods, bread, snacks, soda, eggs and hot bologna.
A few years ago, when Rocky's son, Roger Jr., became a partner in the farm, he developed a delicious extra-creamy chocolate milk.
"When you drink that, you won't want to buy any other brand," says proud father, Rocky.
Their milk is pasteurized, homogenized and bottled on-site. It is much less expensive than the milk in the grocery store because they raise their own feed of corn and hay for their herd.
The men say farming is hard work and takes faithful dedication.
"Farming is 24/7, 365 days a year. If you have to hire someone else, he'd have to have a Ph.D. in mule driving. It's physical work," Rocky says.
Maybe that's why there are only about 30-35 other bottlers in the state.
The Hahns are proud of the product they produce. Dean says their milk does not contain Bovine Somatotropin (BST), the hormone drug used to simulate milk production.
"People don't want the milk with the hormones," he says.
The Hahns pasture their cows.
"We're old fashioned in a lot of ways," says Dean.
Another important quality of the dairy is it can be considered "green" because they use eco-friendly returnable glass bottles to cut down on waste and that helps with conservation efforts.
"A lot of people like milk in glass bottles because it tastes better and it's a way to recycle."
Last October 30, the Hahns were hit hard when Roger, Jr., just 39 years old, suffered a massive left hemisphere stroke.
His father looks kind of lost when he says, "If only I had known. We might have got him help before the damage."
Roger suffers from epxressive aphasia with right side paralysis.
"At first, his prognosis wasn't good. But he has made tremendous gains. He has to relearn everything. Basically, everything in the left side of his brain was wiped out," says his wife, Sue.
He goes to Good Shepherd two days a week for therapy and three days a week to West End Physical. He has to do 20 minutes of speech therapy twice a day.
Sue says that Roger deeply misses the farm.
"It's his life. He wants to be down on the farm every day. It's our goal to get him back to work," she says.
Sue takes Roger to the farm almost daily and is often accompanied by their sons, 10-year-old Justin and nine-year-old Ty, who both love farming as much as their grandfather, uncle and father. They have become their dad's hands and sometimes voice, since Roger can only basically verbally communicate with "Yes" and "No" and a few other words at this time. He can also say, "Dairy" when he wants Sue to know he's ready to go to work.
When Justin was 8 years old, he wrote an assignment about what he wanted to be when he grew up. His grandfather keeps a copy of it in his truck.
It says, "When I grow up, I would like to be a farmer. I like to help my pappy get the cows in the barn. I like bottling milk with my dad. I like to feed the animals. I like to show little kids how to work on a farm. It is fun because I like to work with animals."
Ty tells everyone that he's going to go to eighth grade, quit and go to work on the dairy with his pappy. Of course his parents insist he has to wait until he graduates.
"They just love the farm. They put a sign on their bedroom door that says, 'Do Not Enter. Farmers Only,'" Sue says of her sons.
It takes a special kind of lady to love a farmer, as Rocky's wife, Renee, Dean's wife, Brenda and Roger's wife, Sue, knows and the understanding of their children. Rocky and Renee are the parents of Roger, Jr. and Paula Hahn. Dean and Brenda have one daughter, Kerry Boyer.
"There are no vacations. We went to a birthday party recently and we were only there for a few minutes when Roger said, "Dairy." He wanted to go because he knew his dad and uncle were making hay. So, we left. I told the boys we had to leave because Daddy needs it for healing. I took him to the farm and he sat in a chair and just watched them making hay, wishing for all the world he could be doing it with them. He worries so much about them," says Sue.
As do his dad and uncle about him. Rocky says, "We miss him. He was our mechanic, electrician, plumber and bottler. He worked on our machines taking preventive measures to keep everything running smooth. But he's 99.9 percent where I want him. He smiles. That means the world to me."
Other than waiting for Roger to recover and come back full time, not much has changed in the last 40 years at the farm. But Dean says they have embraced some technology. Like the computer used to tabulate daily how much feed each cow receives based on the amount of pounds of milk it gives a day. It lets the Challenger Feeding System know which cow is at the station by a microchip in the collar it wears.
Dean says 30 years ago dairy farmers got about $10-11 per 100 lbs. of milk.
"That's what we're getting today. But the cost of producing that same amount of milk is higher. Fertilizer last fall was $800 a ton. Two, three years ago, it was only $250 a ton."
He adds that dairy farms are decreasing every year and predicts this will be the worst year for them with the price of milk so low.
"But, we're still going. I think it helped that we didn't invest in a lot of new machines. The last new tractor we purchased was in 1972."
So as the Hahns see it, 40 years is quite a milestone for any dairy farmer these days.
The farm only employs Rocky, Dean and Roger plus the sales people in the store, Alissa Haydt, Donna Serfass and David Getz. Dean's grandson, Cody Boyer, 17, helps in the bottling process.
"We stay small. We do what we can handle. What we do, we want to do right," Dean says. "The quality of our milk is what keeps us in business."
As Dean reflects, he says, "Years ago when we started, that generation wanted to go to the farm for everything. Then it changed. Everybody wanted to go to the store because it was more convenient. Now it seems like they're coming back to the basics again. Life styles are changing. People are trying to eat and drink healthier. And the economy has affected how people spend their money. I think that's why they appreciate us," says Dean.
The Hahns believe they are living the good life.
"I never wanted to be anything but a farmer. It's my whole life. I love looking out over the land and seeing the fields. I don't take vacations. When I get up, the farm is where I want to be," says Dean.
"When I get up in the morning, I want to go another 40 years," says Rocky.
As his gaze encompasses the farm he looks heavenward and says, "My mother loved the land, the cows and the kids. She's up there smiling."
And for the Hahns, that's all the celebration they need.