2017 Family Business Awards, Business Transformation: Twin Brook Creamery

Lynden-based Twin Brook Creamery has been owned by the Stap family since 1910.
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FANS OF JERSEY GIRLS: Larry and Debbie Stap own Twin Brook Creamery with their daughter, Michelle Tolsma, and Michelle’s husband, Mark Tolsma. Photo by Hayley Young.

This article appears in print in the December 2017 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

A decade ago, Twin Brook Creamery stopped supplying raw commodity milk to Darigold and returned to producing dairy products sold in traditional glass bottles.

In 2007, its owners started a bottling operation, which has proved pivotal. Annual sales soared past $2 million in each of the past two years.

“The niche market we found … was fresh milk in glass bottles,” says co-owner Larry Stap, 63. “People tell us over and over that it’s the best milk they’ve had.” Twin Brook’s Jersey cows offer “richer, sweeter-tasting milk,” pasteurized for safety, but not homogenized.

Naturally, milk from the cow consists of skim and cream, the latter rising to the top, unless there’s homogenization in processing. “We leave it natural,” Stap says.

Twin Brook reaches about 200 retail outlets west of the Cascades — from the Canadian border to Portland — with products like whole milk, 2 percent, 1 percent, fat free, half-and-half, heavy cream, strawberry milk and chocolate milk. Its seasonal eggnog is hugely popular.

The dairy, employing 11, is co-owned by Stap and his wife, Debbie, and their daughter, Michelle, and son-in-law, Mark Tolsma. Five Tolsma children, ages 3 to 12, constitute the sixth generation. The Staps’ son, Mike, is creamery manager. Larry Stap grew up on the farm, which was started 4 miles north of Lynden by his great-grandfather, Jacob Stap, in 1910.

The land eventually went to Jake Stap, Larry’s dad. Jake, 87, and wife, Jeannette, 85, are now retired. Known for its environmental stewardship, Twin Brook also supports youth organizations and other groups. John Michener, with the Port of Bellingham, assisted the Staps in a loan program and observed the effort “to bring a product that people haven’t seen in a long time.” And Michener is a fan.

“Their chocolate milk,” he beams, “is famous around here.” 

See the full list of 2017 Family Business Awards winners here.

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