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A family milk affair

A family-owned and operated dairy farm right in the heart of the 209 is taking its customers back to the days of old, when milk came straight from the farm to the kitchen table in a glass bottle.

Nutcher Milk Company in Modesto is truly a family affair, with the dairy originally started by third-generation dairy farmer Rick Nutcher in November 2000. Nutcher, along with his wife Debbie, three daughters Kayla, Casey and Courtney and their own families, have built a milk company that produces close to 7,000 gallons of the Valley’s freshest milk every day. 

“It’s quite a family operation,” Nutcher said. “We work hard, and most importantly we work well together.”

In 2015, Nutcher Milk began bottling its own milk — a method decided upon when the family realized they missed the nostalgia of farm-to-table milk. After just milking cows for the 15 years prior, the Nutcher family built their own creamery where they were able to bottle their own milk. 

“I think the customers really want to know where their milk comes from,” Nutcher said. “When they can pick up the phone and call us directly or come by and visit the dairy and actually see the cows, they can see the way they’re taken care of and where the milk comes from.”

There are close to 800 Holstein cattle at the Nutcher dairy, which are milked twice per day in the morning and afternoon. Milk taken from the cows is bottled three days a week, only after a chilling process which sees the drink go from 98 degrees when it leaves the cow to a brisk 38 degrees within five minutes of leaving the animal. 

The process of milking the cow takes about 15 minutes, Nutcher said, and is quite comfortable. Milk that isn’t bottled goes to nearby Hilmar Cheese to be used in their products. 

“Taking the milk from the cows is the easy part because they like to be milked,” Nutcher said. “We milk them every day at 4:30 in the morning and 4:30 in the afternoon. If we’re late, they’re mad at us.”

On bottling days, milk taken from the cows in the morning is in its glass bottles by 7:30 a.m. That’s pretty fresh, Nutcher said, and the drink’s containers ensure it stays that way. Nutcher encourages customers to return their glass bottles to their local grocery stores, where they’re picked up by Nutcher Milk, washed and used again.

“The eco-friendly part is important, but the glass is also really important because glass doesn’t change the flavor of milk,” Nutcher said. “While it’s in the bottle, it’s just as fresh as the day it was put in there.”

While its freshness is an enticing feature, Nutcher Milk also sets itself apart from other companies thanks to its wide array of unique flavors. Year-round, Nutcher Milk offers original, chocolate, orange cream, cotton candy, root beer and strawberry milk. In the fall, customers can find a seasonal pumpkin spice flavor on the shelves, along with an eggnog-flavored milk during Christmas time. 

The cotton candy flavor, while certainly the most unexpected, is the company’s most popular.

“To come up with them, we do some taste testing with the family,” Nutcher said. “We’re always playing with new flavors but it has to be something we all really like first.”

Nutcher Milk is available in countless stores throughout the Valley, from Merced to Sacramento. For a list of stores where you can purchase Nutcher Milk, visit ■