Owners of Four E Dairy (left to right): Erwin's wife, Helen, Erwin, Eugene, and Elyse
Four generations of Chaloupka men (left to right): Chad, Landon (top), Ernest, and Eugene
Founders of Chaloupka Dairy, Marcella and Ernest Chaloupka (now deceased)
The Chaloupka dairy was started in 1947 by Ernest and Marcella Chaloupka with a very small herd of 2 or 3 Holstein cows. Of course, at that time everything was done by hand and milk was sold from the road. Over the years, the dairy grew to about 100 head, along with the Chaloupka family – five children, daughters Jeanette and Elizabeth, and sons Gene, Erwin, and Ernest “Jr”. Gene, Erwin and Gene’s wife, Elyse, took over the operation in 1970 and the herd grew to 200 head. Ernest retired in the early 1990’s and Gene and Elyse’s son, Chad, an A&M graduate, decided to come back to the farm in 1999.
Dairying thru the early years was a good way to raise and support a family. However, the structure of the milk market changed in the 90’s and the price of milk became very volatile. The consensus of dairy economists was “to stay in dairy business, you have to get big”. So in 2000, a freestall barn and waste pond was built, and more Holstein cows were bought with the intention to go up to 500. Needless to say, that did not happen, it did not solve the cash flow problem and, in fact, brought on a whole new set of problems.
In 2005, we decided to change to the Jersey breed, and 100 full-bred Jersey cows were bought and integrated into the herd. Since that time, the dairy has been using that root stock to build to a full Jersey herd, not bringing in any outside stock, and raising all replacement heifers on farm. We are now “closed herd”.
In 2007, Gene read an article about a corn maze and thought it would be a good way to supplement dairy income. We joined with Gene’s youngest brother, Junior, and his wife Helen, and started the Rocky Creek Maze in September 2007. It has been a great way to share our experience and knowledge about farming, provide good clean family fun, and also add additional income.
In 2009, dairy prices took a deep dive and, coupled with a few years of drought, we were struggling to keep the farm. With the encouragement of a fellow dairyman, we took on another new venture. We made some changes in the dairy barn, put together a group of purebred Jerseys for pasturing, applied for a raw milk permit, and began selling raw milk from the farm. In doing so, we have learned so much about sustainable dairying, nutrition and healthy eating, including raw dairy products and other foods.
Through our raw milk endeavor, we have met an extraordinary group of people, our customers, who are very conscientious about their health, their source of food, and the environment. They are very willing to share their knowledge and their stories. They are very willing to promote each other’s businesses. We feel very blessed for the opportunity, the choice, and the results.
We are now working to pass on the dairy to a third generation, grateful for that generation willing to take on the responsibilities, risks, and hard work associated with dairy farming.