The Land: KandyLand Dairy, building momentum.

June 7, 2017

Kandy Potter and her “girls”

The Land: KandyLand Dairy, building momentum.

#TheLand #MasonCountyAgriculture #Momentum.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

The Land series is a look at local agriculture, Mason County’s second largest industry.

RIVERTON TOWNSHIP — Kandy Potter is living a dream. What began as a solution to lactose intolerance nine years ago has turned into a full time career and passion as a goat dairy farmer. Originally from Shelby in Oceana County, Kandy moved to Riverton Township five years ago to expand her vision and create KandyLand Dairy and Creamery at 117 W. Meisenheimer Road.

“The dream started nine years ago with three rescue goats,” Kandy says while standing in the pasture surrounded by her “girls.” She says she soon found out that many people who were lactose intolerant, such as herself, could not drink cow’s milk but could drink goat’s milk.

Lactose intolerance is defined as the inability to digest the sugar in milk, known as lactose. This inability results from a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is normally produced in the small intestine. Lactase breaks down the sugar so the body can digest it. When there is not enough lactase to digest the amount of lactose consumed, mild to severe stomach discomfort may result.

In addition to drinking the goat’s milk, Kandy started making cheeses. “Several of my family members and neighbors fell in love with it,” she says. She then started making other products, such as soap, as well.

She capitalized on the feedback from others and decided to expand the herd and find a dairy that could produce the milk and cheese. For the first few years, she drove from Shelby to a creamery in Ann Arbor until she discovered the Starting Block Kitchen, a start-up incubator, just a few miles north in Hart.

“That move really saved me a lot of time and let me concentrate on developing my products.” The Starting Block Kitchen allows entrepreneurs to rent licensed commercial kitchen space, saving them the overhead of having their own space.

“I focused on sales for two years and didn’t have to worry about my upkeep or buying equipment,” she says.

But, as a business grows, it eventually needs to find its own space.

Five years ago, Kandy and her fiance, Steve Volkers, started searching for a place with more land than their Shelby home offered. Their search was concentrated mainly from Oceana County south to Fennville in Allegan County. Then, one day she needed to run to Ludington to buy farm supplies.

“I was driving down Scottville Road and I came up to Meisenheimer Road. I looked down here (just west of Scottville Road) and saw a for-sale sign and I thought ‘no way.’ So, I turned around and came back and looked around. I couldn’t believe my eyes, all these beautiful green pastures and hay fields. It was just like a God send to us that said ‘buy it.’” Kandy and Steve came back four or five times and then made an offer.

At that time the herd consisted of 50 to 60 goats but they soon expanded and now have well over 100.

Kandy continued to use the Starting Block but had dreams of being self sufficient. Last year an opportunity came up that gave her a big boost. She decided to enter the Momentum Business Plan competition, which gives $50,000 to a start-up business, or a business that grosses less than $100,000 a year, as long as that business is located in Mason County or is willing to relocate to Mason County. Out of the five finalists, Kandy won. Along with $50,000, she receives the consultation of the competition’s board, which consists of local business leaders, and the winner of the previous year’s competition.

“That gave us the jump we were looking for and we didn’t have to go out and get bank financing,” Kandy says. “We could do it on our own now. The Momentum competition has been incredible. We wouldn’t be this far ahead if it wasn’t for the Momentum. It was a lot of hard work building the business plan and going through documents and financials. I also used a SCORE counselor with the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I highly recommend going through the competition to anyone who has a small business that qualifies.”

The prize helped pay for the building of a creamery and the purchase of needed equipment such as a pasteurizer, chillers, a cooler, and a cheese aging room.

Like any dairy, milking animals for a living is not easy work. As a small operation, Kandy does the majority of the work by herself; Steve helps but also works a full time job. Milking takes place every day from 4 a.m. to about 8 a.m. and again from 4 to 8 p.m. Cheese is made four days a week. Kandy spends her summers at several farmers’ markets including the Cadillac Made in Michigan Market on Thursdays and Saturdays, Ludington on Fridays, and Frankfort on Saturdays. In the winter, she markets at the Sweetwater Market in Muskegon, which sells organic and non-GMO products. Her products are sold to several restaurants in Mason, Oceana, and Manistee counties.

In addition to raising and milking goats, the farm also raises beef and chickens and raises garden crops. On Wednesdays, yoga classes are offered in the pasture — with the “girls.”

To find out more about Kandyland Dairy and Creamery, visit its Facebook page.

This story is copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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