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Takes family comes together to open Ely creamery

Dan and Debbie’s Creamery will sell milk and ice cream, opening July 30
Dan and Debbie Takes stand on the deck of their creamery, opening July 30. (photo by Nora Heaton)

ELY– The opening-soon Dan and Debbie’s Creamery in Ely will sell white and chocolate milk, squeaky cheese curds and homemade ice cream. But it will also sell some things that are non-quantifiable: the security of knowing your milk comes from happy, well-treated cows, the satisfaction of finding a tasty and high-quality product by a local business, and the knowledge that your dollar supports a business built and maintained by an entire family.
Dan and Debbie’s Creamery will open July 30 at 1600 Main St. in Ely, the site of the old Vavra Lumber Company. All products at the creamery are made from milk from the Takes Family Dairy Farm, which has been a dairy farm since the late 1990s. From 1998 until this summer, milk was processed and sold by Swiss Valley Farms Cooperative.
Now, Dan and Debbie Takes will be processing and selling their own products– not just white and chocolate bottled milk, but also squeaky cheese curds and homemade ice cream– at Dan and Debbie’s Creamery. The creamery will also sell some other local products, like maple syrup and goat’s milk soap.
Opening a creamery is a long-held dream, Dan said.
The best part of the dream? Having family involved. Five out of Dan and Debbie’s six grown children work on the farm. Tyler works there full-time, feeding and caring for the cattle; Riley attends the University of Iowa and works part-time on the farm during the summer; Dustin is on the Cedar Rapids Fire Department, but does field and machine work when he’s off-duty; Josie handles the new creamery’s marketing; and Tori is the store manager.
“It’s the best, and that was always the way I wanted it,” Dan said. “It says Dan and Debbie’s on the building, but without (the kids) there’s no way all this could happen.”
Meanwhile, Dan and Debbie milk the cows twice a day, every day.
It’s unusual for a business to have the owners themselves milking the cows, Dan said. It’s something that makes Dan and Debbie’s unique. Milkings happen 12 hours apart, and each takes about three hours from set-up to clean-up, assuming all goes smoothly with the 150 cows.
And the cows are working hard, too.
“I call the cows the employees,” Debbie said. “They’ve all got to cooperate for it to work.”
Both Dan and Debbie love working with the animals, and make sure they’re treated well. The cows are all named. One cow, Carmon, gave birth to a calf named Lilac on Mother’s Day. Lilac’s debut was proudly featured on the Dan and Debbie’s Creamery Facebook page. The Takes believe comfortable, clean, and well-fed cows produce the best milk.
That why the most difficult part of being a dairy farmer, Dan said, is losing an animal.
“That’s the toughest,” he said. “I’ll probably never get used to that.”
For Debbie, the toughest part is never being able to take a day off all year, no matter how bad you feel.
“I can work 360 days a year,” Debbie said, “But there will be five days I don’t feel like working.”
All that hard work pays off in the product, though. And the fact that the Takes will now control every aspect of the process, from start to finish, is exciting to them. They grow their own crops to feed the cows, they milk the cows themselves, and they now will process and package the milk. Their products are a great buy for people who like to know exactly where their food is coming from. The milk is non-homogenized and contained no artificial growth hormones.
Dan and Debbie have been getting plenty of positive feedback that suggests Iowans are ready for their creamery to open.
“I’m excited about the support everyone’s been giving us,” Dan said.
“I’m ready for it to be open,” Debbie said. “I’m looking forward to seeing people appreciate what we’ve put our heart in and soul into.”