Our dairy farm has been family owned since the early 1900s, when Ervin Bonlender and his wife, Margaret, entered the milk business by purchasing the farm from Margaret’s parents.
In 1967, the couple sold the farm to their son, Joe Bonlender Sr., and his wife, Louise. They continued the tradition of working their legacy, growing the business and maintaining the family’s reputation for providing quality dairy products.
Joe Jr. and his brother, Gary, had grown up working on the farm their entire lives. In 1978, they formed a partnership with their parents and changed the company name to Clover Hill Dairy. Shortly after, they added the farm’s first milking parlor, which enabled them to milk 140 cows three times each day.
The partnership continued until 1998, when Joe Jr. and wife Chris bought the dairy and the land it sits on. The couple formed Clover Hill Dairy, LLC. By this time, we had increased production to milking 500 cows three times a day and working 550 acres of land.
By the turn of the century, we added a new milking parlor, additional free stall barns and lots more cows. In 2005, Joe and Chris’ children, Sara and Brett, came to work in the family business. We continued to add free stall barns and cows over the years and, in 2006, built our methane digester. Sara and Brett became business partners in 2011, and Gary rejoined the business, becoming a partner in 2014.
Today, our fifth-generation family-owned business milks 1,800 cows in a modern operation that looks quite different from the way it did when Sara and Brett’s great-great-grandparents built it. Thankfully, when it comes to family pride of ownership and the values learned being brought up on a dairy farm, some things will never change.