Nathan Hemme: Partnering With Family To Propel Success and Build A Foundation of Generational Sustainability

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Nathan Hemme is a co-owner of Hemme Brothers Creamery located near Sweet Springs in #Agri-Ready Designated Saline County. Nathan grew up on his family’s traditional dairy farm, working with his parents, sister, and three brothers to manage and care for their milking cow herd 365 days a year. The Hemme family felt a growing strain on their farm to thrive. In 2016, they saw an opportunity to create a new market through cheese making by opening a creamery. The value-added journey of Hemme Brothers Creamery has propelled their family farm to success and built a foundation for its generational sustainability.  

Hemme Brothers products are produced and crafted by their family “from crop to cream to curd” from their farm to your table. Nathan and his father, David, create and market the fresh and aged handmade cheeses made from the farm’s milk. Nathan’s brother, Michael, cares for the cow herd, ensuring they are producing milk high in butterfat and protein to yield rich, flavorful cheeses. The cows are fed grain, hay and grass that is grown by Nathan’s brother, Jon. 

Nathan’s favorite aspect of the creamery is getting to fine-tune the business with incremental updates that help the business grow. “Every job on the farm has its pros and cons,” Nathan shared. “There are days that it is hard for me to be making cheese in a white room while my brothers are planting crops out in the sunshine. Sometimes I miss seeing the cows and crops grow. But other days, my brothers are feeding cows and it is negative 30 degrees outside. I don’t miss those days.” Nathan’s outlook is a reminder that perspective is important on any family dairy farm.

(Photo Credit: Rob Mattson/Noble Research Institute)

Looking back, Nathan can see a big difference between his upbringing on a traditional family dairy farm and the family business in which he has ownership. “We had hard times growing up. My parents had no control over the price of milk, very little control of the cost of inputs,” Nathan reflected. “Now we can grow our business knowing how much income we need to make per hundred pounds of milk we produce. The biggest difference between then and now is the economic sustainability of our family business.” Today, the creamery has grown to incorporate ten additional employees and the Creamery is adding value to commodity products that consumers want every day. Value-added agricultural products contribute $500.4 million annually to the Saline County economy according to the 2021 Missouri Economic Contribution of Agriculture and Forestry Study. 

(Photo Credit: Rob Mattson/Noble Research Institute)

Thoughtful creamery design and wise equipment choices have fostered food safety and cleanliness. With safety and quality under control, Nathan intentionally focuses on customer satisfaction. “We talk to our customers constantly,” Nathan said. “We attend farmers markets in Overland Park, Ks. and Columbia, Mo. each Saturday where we get feedback from a total of 12,000 to 18,000 customers each week.” In response to customer demand, Hemme Brothers Creamery product lines boast ten flavors of cheese curds, seven flavors of cheddar, pizza cheese, dairy feta and Quark, a German spreadable cheese. They also make fresh, hand-stretched mozzarella each Friday from Memorial Day until Labor Day, which sells out each weekend. 

In 2023, Hemme Brothers Creamery was awarded a Show-Me Entrepreneurial Grants for Agriculture (SEGA) Innovation Grant through the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) housed in the Missouri Department of Agriculture. These grants were designed to help farmers and agricultural businesses add value to agricultural products in Missouri. Hemme Brothers Creamery has utilized their SEGA grant to make more cheese in less time by adding equipment to increase capacity. The creamery’s boosted efficiency has allowed Nathan to add a new production line for pizza cheese. 

(Photo Credit: Rob Mattson/Noble Research Institute)

“The SEGA grant was timely for us. We wanted to be able to expand our capacity to process all our own milk. The grant funds gave us the opportunity to fully commit to this transition by allowing us to get adequate equipment for the creamery,” Nathan said. “MASBDA was straight forward and easy to work with through the process. We didn’t want the grant opportunity to dictate how our business would move forward, we wanted to develop a plan that agreed with the grant that would propel our business in the direction we wanted to go.”

Hemme Brothers Creamery can now process the 1.5 million pounds of milk that they expect to be produced on their family’s farm this year. The equipment expansions made possible by the SEGA grant will support processing and production of up to 3 million pounds of milk each year as market demand grows. The family looks forward to being able to expand their milking cow herd to produce more pounds of milk so they can craft even more wholesome, flavorful value-added cheese.

Nathan and his wife live on a farm just north of Emma, Mo. with their four children. They enjoy being involved in family activities with their church and school organizations. Hemme Brothers Creamery is a member of the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Missouri Grown program. The Hemme family are supporters of Midwest Dairy, a partner of Missouri Farmers Care.