Recollecting how Muddy River Dairy of Otego got its start, farmer and co-owner Karli Johnson said of her husband, Josh, “We met showing cows. I was from the West Coast originally, but I packed up and moved across the country and bought a farm.”
Before purchasing the Otego property at 63 Main St., Johnson said she and her husband put in five years at his family farm in Unadilla, Joleanna Holsteins and Covered Bridge Farm Market.
Today, the couple, with some help from their kids, maintain and farm roughly 700 acres between Oneonta and Wells Bridge, growing and harvesting everything from cattle crops of alfalfa, corn and hay to family favorites such as empire apples, pumpkins and sweet corn.
“We are open-year round, which is different from most farm stands,” she said.
Beyond seasonal produce and décor, the Johnsons offer eggs and meat — this time of year they begin taking orders for turkeys. But it is their place in the growing raw milk market for which the Johnsons are becoming increasingly well-known.
“There are only 46 raw milk permits in New York and we’re one of them,” Johnson said. Explaining what’s so special about raw milk she added, “It’s milk that is not processed. It comes right from my cows and then gets passed through a filter and tested.”
Johnson, who acknowledged “all milk is good for you,” went on to clarify, “Ours is as close to the way it was made as you’re going to get. And it’s delicious!”
Where other milk contains additives and unnatural extras, Muddy River Dairy milk complies to the very strictest of quality standards. Muddy River has been recognized as a Gold Standard Dairy as well as awarded “Super Milk” honors. Gold Standard accreditation is issued through Dairy Farmers of America and recognizes not only the upkeep and appearance of a given farm property, but also the care and health of its animals.
Called “one of the first in the industry,” the Gold Standard Dairy Program “is an on-farm best practices evaluation that assesses operations in the areas of animal care and wellness, environmental stewardship, employee training and milk safety and quality," according to the DFA website. The Super Milk Program “recognizes producers that achieve quality standards — keeping their somatic cell counts below 250,000 — and operate exemplary farmsteads,” according to the program's website.
Asked about plans for Muddy River, Johnson said, “We’re going to maintain our farm, maintain our cows, and do the best job we can every day.”
On Sunday, the Johnsons will host a day of fall family fun. “We’ll be giving hayrides up to the pumpkin patch for you-pick,” she said. “We’ve never done this before, but there was a lot of interest from people wanting to pick their own pumpkins.”
Rides will begin at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Johnsons will also hold a guess-the-weight contest for their biggest pumpkin, with a gift certificate to the farm awarded to the winner.
Muddy River Dairy is just off of Interstate 88 at Exit 12. Visitors should look for the rotating cast of themed, seasonal murals overhanging the entrance to the farm stand, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit Muddy River Dairy on Facebook or reach the farm at 988-0026.