Royal Riverside is proud to be part of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association.
Dairy farmers across our state and nation continue working hard EVERY SINGLE DAY to make sure our milk is available for you. We care about our cows, our communities, and country. Thank you for supporting the hard working men, women, and children who produce Nature's Most Perfect Food for YOU!
ALBANY, Ore. — Afternoon milking is a family affair at Royal Riverside Farm.
Sisters Gracie and Clancey Krahn open the barn door into a tidy parlor where their herd of 12 cows — mostly Jerseys, with one Holstein and one Brown Swiss — enters four at a time. The girls and their father, Ben Krahn, then gently disinfect each of the animals’ teats with iodine solution before attaching them to an automatic milking machine.
Amy Krahn, the girls’ mother, fills bowls of grain for the cows to eat while being milked. When finished, they saunter back into the classic red barn and the next group comes in to take their place.
“There are no days off when you’re a dairy farmer,” Amy Krahn said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re milking one cow, or 10,000 cows. They have to be milked twice a day, every day.”
It’s that kind of hard work and responsibility that Ben and Amy said they wanted to instill in their children when they bought the 5-acre farm in rural Albany, Ore., in 2010. Both parents grew up on dairies, and dreamed of raising their own family in the same lifestyle.
Initially, Royal Riverside Farm was simply a way to support Gracie and Clancey’s passion for showing animals as the girls entered 4-H and FFA. Not only would they attend national competitions, but they would also have a place to raise the animals at home and complete daily chores such as feeding and milking.
As one cow became two and then eventually a dozen, the Krahns realized they needed extra income to support the farm. While Ben and Amy have worked separate full-time jobs, the family had a moment of reckoning when they decided to bottle and sell milk in a bid to make the enterprise profitable.
The gamble so far has paid off. Since 2018, Royal Riverside Farm has expanded into 35 stores from the Willamette Valley north to Hood River, east to Bend and south to Roseburg. Consumer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, praising the milk’s freshness and taste.
“It was a leap of faith,” Gracie Krahn said. “We’re so thankful for how our local community has accepted us and just rallied around us.”
For years, Ben and Amy Krahn were dairy farmers without a farm.
Ben was raised in northeast Wisconsin, just west of Green Bay, where his family milked 60 Holsteins. When he was 18, they sold the dairy and moved west after his father, Jim Krahn, took a job as executive secretary of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association.
Amy, meanwhile, worked on her grandfather’s dairy in Hood River, milking about 50 Jerseys. Once her dad took over the farm, he decided to sell their cows and transition the land into orchards, growing the Columbia Gorge’s signature fruit crops including pears, cherries and apples.
The couple first met while showing cows at the Oregon State Fair in 1993. In a bit of serendipity, they later found themselves working together as students at the Oregon State University Dairy Farm, where they fell in love.
“If someone can love you when you’re milking cows, you know it’s real,” Amy Krahn said with a laugh.
They soon married, and though Ben continued to run the OSU Dairy Farm in Corvallis, they longed for a farm of their own where they could carry on their families’ legacy.
At the height of the Great Recession in 2010, they learned about a foreclosed property along the Willamette River in Albany that was up for auction. With paddles in hand and an opening bid of $50,000, they came away the owners. The whole thing lasted maybe two minutes, Amy remembers.
“It was just a whirlwind from that point on, trying to figure out how to make everything go,” she said.
As Gracie, now 18, and Clancey, 15, were preparing to enter 4-H and FFA, the farm was meant to be their base for raising champion pigs and heifers.
The family built a vintage two-story barn and hay loft, and the girls rewarded their labor in the show ring.
In 2013, Gracie participated for the first time at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., and won All-American calf in both the junior and open divisions at the American Jersey Cattle Association’s annual show in Louisville, Ky.
Two years later, Gracie and Clancey made history in Louisville by becoming the first siblings to win their respective divisions for showmanship at the All-American Jersey Show — Gracie as an intermediate, and Clancey as a junior. Just this year, Gracie was crowned the 62nd National Jersey Queen, serving as a promoter for the breed and dairy industry overall.
These are the same cows the family now milks at Royal Riverside. Each has a name and its own distinct personality, from the spicy-tempered Sriracha — appropriately named after the popular hot sauce — to the gentle giant Diana, the herd’s lone Holstein. Holsteins are the largest of all dairy breeds, weighing up to 1,500 pounds.
By working with them every day and having an intimate understanding of what it takes to raise healthy, productive animals, Clancey said it helps them to answer questions from customers and forge solid relationships around the community.
“We can literally tell them anything they want to know,” Clancey said. “We don’t just process the milk. We don’t just raise the baby calves, and we don’t just milk the cows. We literally do it from conception to harvest. ... We can even go all the way back to talking about nutrition and how we feed the cows.”
In addition to the farm, the Krahns also lease a 50-acre field nearby where they haul their manure offsite and grow hay. Sustainability is an important part of their operation, the family says.
Gracie, who is preparing to attend Linn-Benton Community College in the fall, said farming has not only taught her valuable life skills, but helped foster a love for advocacy.
“It’s been a pretty unique experience,” she said.
Once the cows are milked, the process of bottling begins.
First, the milk is pumped into bulk holding tanks and then into a large stainless steel vat to be pasteurized in small batches. Vat pasteurization is a bit of an old-school processing technique, Ben Krahn explains, heating the raw milk slowly to 145 degrees and then slowly cooling it.
Each batch may take up to a few hours before it is ready to drink, he said. While not feasible for larger milk processors, Krahn said it is a good fit for Royal Riverside and allows them to add more value to their product.
“We knew that because of the way we do things on a small scale, it was going to require getting a premium for our product and finding a niche market,” he said.
Royal Riverside’s milk is not homogenized, meaning the fat content has not been broken down and dissolved into the body of the fluid. That gives it a richer, creamier taste, the family says, and can aid in digestion. Non-homogenized milk is also known as “creamline” milk.
After pasteurization, the milk is poured into signature half-gallon glass bottles along a manually operated conveyor line, and stored in a nearby refrigerator until it is ready for delivery. The farm bottles milk every 48 hours and produces about 450 gallons per week, all of which gets sold.
Looking ahead, Amy Krahn said she hopes to continue milking cows and possibly expand after Ben retires and the girls finish school. “I can’t imagine ever doing anything else at this point in time, to be honest with you,” she said.
The Krahns say their family’s unique story, combined with vertical integration, has helped them to grow into a successful business.
“We’re trying to basically do something in half a generation that should take three,” Ben Krahn said. “It’s been a challenge, and we just feel extremely blessed that we’re moving on in what we want to do, and that we have people who support us and our product.”