About Our 4th Generation Family Farm
Family- Owned, Operated, and Inspired
The foundations of OPDC, the love of cows and raw milk, go back to the childhoods of the McAfee brothers who grew up on the family farm and dairy in the 1960’s. The brothers have fond memories feeding calves, milking cows, and playing endless hours on haystacks.
Mark, Eric, Adam, and Andrew McAfee made the decision as brothers to bring back the family dairy and farming operations. They inherited this fertile land from their grandparents as young boys but were too young to farm on their own. After years of leasing the land to other farmers, the brothers were excited to take on this new challenge. Each brother complimented the other: Mark as a charismatic and hardworking leader, Eric with his entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy, Adam with his financial and technical expertise, and Andrew as a passionate health advocate.
Mark moved to the farm in 1983 with his wife Blaine to raise their children Aaron and Kaleigh. Mark served as a paramedic and medical educator for the Fresno County Health Department for 16 years. In 1996, Mark retired and ran his last *911 EMS call to follow his passion to farm the land where he grew up and raised his family.
Early Farming Beginnings:
In the early 1980’s, the McAfee family was ready to pioneer a new way of farming. They started by planting 160 acres of apples. At the time, the export market to Asia was red hot for premium quality apples. The McAfee Brothers saw the market niche and implemented innovative technology where apples were grown in individual bags to allow for premium color and quality. The international export market loved our apples, but the brothers always wanted to connect locally with their consumer. In the mid 1990’s, the decision was made to transition to certified organic to provide premium quality organic apples to their local community. Little did they know that the transition to organic farming would pave the road for our organic dairy and almonds.
Our Raw Milk Connection:
What we didn’t know at the time we started our dairy was, six months prior, Alta Dena (Los Angeles based raw milk producer who produced raw milk for nearly fifty years) had discontinued their sale of raw milk. The Alta Dena consumers in Southern California were desperately thirsty for raw milk. Those passionate raw milk enthusiasts discovered our dairy through our website. Soon they drove to the farm from as far south as San Diego with their jars in hand. They shared their raw milk testimonials, and the many health benefits of raw milk. This intimate connection began our long history of connecting to our consumers, as we all learn from each other.
The Next Generation:
Organic apples were doing fine, but the brothers still had 405 acres of land that they were leasing to a local farmer and not farming themselves. In the late 1990’s, they made the decision to farm the entire property that is now the green pastures for Organic Pastures Dairy. The new generation farming operations were designed to be environmentally conscious, organic, sustainable, consumer connected, and local. In 1999, OPDC grew out of the effort to utilize organic alfalfa grown on the farm. The dairy was designed to always put the cows’ welfare first by always grazing them on green pastures so they can frolic and enjoy a natural life, and to be raised organically. Our one-of-a-kind Grade A mobile milk barn was built to facilitate our pasture-based operation. We became operational as an organic dairy in early 2000, with all milk being sold under contract with Organic Valley.
How Our Brand Was Built:
ORGANIC PASTURES quickly responded to consumer demand by becoming advocates and students of raw milk. Our permit from that State of California for the retail sale of Grade A raw milk was obtained just 60 days after learning about raw milk. With plenty of passionate interest from those thirsty SoCal raw milk consumers, we knew we had to act quickly. Mark had an innovative idea to build our Grade A creamery out of re-purposed refrigerated reefer trailers. One-by-one, more trailers were added to fulfill the growing consumer demand and expand new product lines. You must see our innovative facility to believe it!
When we called our local grocery store to announce that organic raw milk was available, the dairy buyer said, “How fast can you drive down here and make a delivery?” Sales were contagious. Raw milk consumers and advocates in Los Angeles quickly gathered behind our brand, and more stores called to request delivery of our delicious raw milk.
With the work of our new raw milk team, our brand grew rapidly. Most importantly, raw milk once again became available to many people. Soon, hundreds of stores began carrying our raw milk. As interest in our milk grew, OP began to deliver to northern CA stores through the Clover Stornetta distribution system. Mark and Blaine’s children Aaron McAfee and Kaleigh Lutz joined the OP team to become a truly family owned and operated business.
OP worked very hard to learn how to produce raw milk using the best Food Safety Standards, maintain cold chain, and collect consumer feedback. As the number of stores grew, and the need to connect directly to stores, we began distributing ourselves with the purchase of our delivery trucks.
Evolving the Packaging:
Building the packaging look and style of the product's brand was an evolving process. In the beginning, the signature logo (a calf nestled in the pastures with a butterfly overhead) was hand drawn by Blaine McAfee's talented artist brother, Doug Cheshier. We started bottling our raw milk in glass bottles. Years later, Kaleigh Lutz established the Marketing Department and decided to update the brand and product design to accommodate a new target market consumer audience. The decision to move from glass to plastic required a deep analysis from the Distribution, Accounting, Operations, and Marketing Departments. The decision was made to stop packaging in glass (not as eco-friendly as it appeared to be in the beginning) and into a #2, recyclable, BPA, BPS free plastic bottle. This package change allowed for lighter distribution loads, less water waste/usage, conservation of resources, and many more other sustainable practices.
Today, customers identify with the product's graphic branded cow, blue sky, rolling hills, and signature green grass blades. If you look closely, there are also many design elements that are hidden in every branded marketing material, such as: the Share the Secret purple and pink heart, the yellow butterfly (representing the wildlife that thrives in the organic pastures), and much more.
After 14 years of consumer-driven growth, OP now distributes from Mt. Shasta near the Oregon border, to San Diego, to Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra’s, and many communities in-between. We operate 24 trucks and deliver to more than 600 retail stores. We also sell our products at 13 farmers markets and deliver to 30 Buyer’s Clubs. We even UPS deliver our milk to our California customers every week. All of the citizens of the great state of California have access to OP raw dairy products. Nourishing healthy families is our mission! OP continues to rapidly grow to nourish an even greater number of consumers.