The glass bottles whir past in rows and are filled with rich, creamy milk by machine. The Stoker Milk Company’s investment in current bottling technology is just about the only way the family business has changed over the past 70 years.
In 1938, Herman Stoker moved to Burley from Lava Hot Springs with a single jersey cow named affectionately Old Bess. By throwing over a dozen calves, Old Bess was instrumental in helping Stoker build his milking herd. His stock quickly grew to around 50 head and by 1941 Stoker was in position to start selling fresh milk for bottling and distribution.
Since then, the business has been owned by four generations of the family, according to 31-year old Kelly Stoker.
The family business is a way a life, and Kelly Stoker will continue the tradition after buying his father out, and he hopes his own offspring will do the same down the line.
Kelly Stoker essentially grew up on the family’s Mini-Cassia area dairy and bottling company. The cows may be long gone (the dairy ceased operation in the early 1980s) but the work ethic that shaped Kelly’s life remains today, as does an adherence to providing quality milk and old-fashioned customer service.
“The technology might be different today than it was when our family started the business, but our focus on providing high-quality milk customers can trust remains at the forefront of our operation,” he said.
Today, Stoker Milk bottles 8,000 gallons of milk each week for delivery, sending product across Idaho and even into Oregon and Wyoming.
“We even do home delivery,” Stoker said, noting that all of Mini-Cassia is currently served and the company is moving into the Twin Falls area market.
Stoker notes the current national trend of people awakening to the importance of knowing where their food comes from.
“First of all, we’re local and there aren’t a lot of local, small bottling companies,” Stoker said. “Why small local operations are good for consumers is that we are able to keep our milk as fresh as possible, we have more opportunity for quality control because we are involved and oversee every step in the process.”
Their pasteurization process – where milk is heated just to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) required temperature – is key to keeping milk’s natural flavor and texture.
Stoker says they meet the FDA’s requirements in their pasteurization, but they don’t turn the heat past the required point, which many other companies do because it extends the milk’s shelf life.
“Often times, a week or more will have passed by the time the cow gives milk to it ending up on store shelves – even longer by the time a customer purchases it and takes it home,” Stoker said. “Companies have to do something to increase the shelf life of the milk, or it will end up going bad before it gets to the customer. Since our milk is bottled and in customer’s refrigerators within days, we don’t have to increase the temperature required by the FDA for pasteurization. The result is better-tasting milk.”
In addition to selling their own milk, Stoker Milk Company also offers a variety of Darigold-brand dairy products, including cottage cheese, chocolate milk, sour cream, butter and whipping cream. They also have a small selection of locally baked breads and eggs.
In addition to home delivery in the Mini-Cassia area and beyond, their products are available in a variety of stores across southern Idaho.