Whether Laurie Kyle, owner of Perkup coffee shop in Elkhorn, is making a caramel macchiato or a café breve, she embraces the opportunity to advocate for the local farmers through a product common to all espresso drinks — milk.
Using the milk that Kyle and her husband, Dave, produce at their dairy farm, Kylecrest Holsteins and Jerseys, in the town of LaFayette about 10 miles from Perkup, Kyle gives customers a reason to appreciate milk. In compliance with Wisconsin law, she sells the milk from her farm to a vendor and then buys it back from a location that sells her milk, such as the local Kwik Trip. She then educates her customers on the nutritious value of milk while using it for their drinks.
“We provide the highest quality of milk on the farm to the store,” said Kyle, who opened Perkup in 2012.
At Perkup, 27 North Wisconsin St., in downtown Elkhorn across from the courthouse, Kyle, who has a bachelor of science degree in nutrition from Kaplan University in Milwaukee, connects the community of local dairy farmers with her customers — county employees of the courthouse, teachers, professionals and some who have never set foot on a dairy farm. And a few, she feels, have some misconceptions about the milk from her dairy farm.
She recalls one customer who said she would not drink milk due to additives.
“I explained that we add nothing to the milk. I see that because I am at the farm. The milk would not get through the plant, the truck or to the store. It would not happen,” she said. “And another person who said, ‘People should not drink any kind of mammal milk. Our bodies are not set up for that.’ That is another myth.”
“I am a nutritionist, a farmer and a business owner. I am on the farm and work with the cows. I know what is going on.”
And yes, humans are equipped to handle milk, Kyle is quick to emphasize.
“I can say that the milk is healthy as it comes from our farm,” she said. “I know what goes in the milk.”
Some customers may feel that milk is not healthy, or that organic, soy or almond milk is better. Kyle tells them otherwise.
“There are nine essential vitamins and minerals: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, niacin, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and riboflavin. They work together to keep our bodies healthy,” she said.
Some people who come to Perkup believe that some farmers disregard the environment and their cows. Kyle is quick to clear up those misunderstandings.
“Farmers wouldn’t produce crops and cows wouldn’t milk if the cows were mistreated,” she said.
Kyle is proud to tell her customers how she pampers the 140 cows she and her husband own. All the cows get monthly pedicures, and they all have the option of going in the pasture or staying in the barn, depending on the outside temperature. They have comfy individual sand beds to sleep in and fans in the barn keep them cool when temperatures are high. Fresh water is always available, the cows eat a balanced diet and a nutritionist monitors them once a month.
The cows all have unique personalities, according to Kyle.
“Some are bossy, queens or leaders. All of our cows have names,” she said. “Our cows are our girls.”
Kyle finds that the roles of being an advocate for farmers as well as a coffee shop owner come naturally to her, and her experience working with agriculture hands-on helped her to be effective in that dual role.
“It is great. We work on the farm, and she is in the city doing publicity,” said Hayden Kyle, Laurie and Dave’s son. Hayden, who graduated from UW-Madison with a certificate in dairy management, is a partner at his family’s farm.
“A lot of people who live in Elkhorn don’t see the farms,” he said.
Hayden brings his knowledge of technology and new practices, much of which he learned from his college courses, to the farm.
“I love it,” he said.
Bringing in Jersey cows, a breed that not so many farmers use, to his family’s farm is Hayden’s pride and joy.
“I love milking them. Their milk is higher in quality, higher in protein and has less water,” Hayden said. “The milk they produce contains higher butterfat and protein.”
Before Hayden went to college, his family farm had no Jersey cows. Because of his suggestion, his father tried using two cows, then four and now, they have more than 100. The family owns 5 acres and buys all of its feed.
Dave was reluctant at first to use Jersey cows, but felt that if he wanted his son to be an actual partner and eventually own the farm, he needed to listen to him.
“I know some kids who work on their father’s farm leave because their father would not listen to them,” Dave said. “I knew if I listened to Hayden, he would stay a while. The Jersey cows have a higher quality of milk and are lower maintenance. That helps.”
Dave, whose lifelong dream was to own a dairy farm, was always interested in farming as his father, Walter, and his grandfather, Don, owned farms across the street from each other. When his father died of cancer when Dave was 12, he worked for Jack Ames, husband of his father’s visiting nurse, Donna, on his farm. Dave worked and rented a farm from Ames until he bought his own farm in 2007.
“We put our necks on the line when we bought the farm,” he said. Working with higher technology and with his son, who has fresh energy and new ideas, helps.
“We try to be very progressive,” Hayden added.
“We have to work hard. Even harder,” he said. “Not everyone wants to do this. Only one percent of the population is farmers, and they are working hard to provide milk to 99 percent of the population.”
But for now, Laurie loves finding a unique and creative way to promote milk while educating others at Perkup.
“Maybe some people who wouldn’t drink milk now drink it because it is mixed with the espresso,” she said.
For more information, visit http://www.perkupelkhorn.com.