100 Years of Kleinpeter Family Values
“One day after I stopped working at the dairy full time, I started writing down the names of dairies
that had been in Baton Rouge in my lifetime. I wrote down 28 dairies, and I’m sure I skipped some.
And I thought, ‘Now why is it that Kleinpeter Dairy is still here and these other dairies fell by
the wayside—big ones—I mean multinational companies that went belly up?’ And Kleinpeter Dairy carried on.
I think it was 7 days a week taking care of your cows and your business. Keeping everything spotlessly clean—the cows, the
equipment. Having good fresh milk. Usually our milk would keep longer, because in the old days you didn’t have a lot of
refrigeration. You had ice boxes, but our milk was always good and fresh and we were on the job regularly. You
could have hurricanes, ice storms, but we took care of those cows, seven days a week, including holidays.” – Ben Kleinpeter
During World War 2, Ben Kleinpeter and his two older brothers were in the Army, and most of the farm’s employees left for jobs
supporting the war effort. But Ben’s two younger brothers, Mike and Vincent (“Bobo”), kept the
dairy going even though they were just in high school:
“How they finished high school is a mystery. They were running milk routes and milking cows and delivering
milk, and then going to school and park the milk truck at the school. And they’d come out at recess and check
the milk to be sure they had ice on it, and then go back in. And in the evening, when they left school
they’d go to some of these little stores and pick up empty bottles and get their money. You know
milk was 12 cents a quart. Compared to their life I think Army life was easy.” – Ben Kleinpeter
We’ve always tried to be cutting edge. Through market research, we learned some of the things
we were already doing were important to the consumer. For example, at first we didn’t know
it was that important for our farm to be certified by the American Humane Association. We just
thought it would be a cool thing to be certified because we knew we treated our cows well to
begin with. But once we started letting people know about our perfect scores, we found out
what that means! People know that quality milk can only come from perfect cows.
Here are some other examples: We weren’t the first to come out with rBGH-free products.
We were just the first in this area to do it. Typically when you come out with something first
you sort of own it, for awhile. The fact that our products are fresh and local used to be on our
old milk trucks back in the 70s. I think we sort of set the trend back then to be where we are
today with locally owned, locally produced for the consumer. It means our products are fresher,
and we are also accountable.
Before we built the new dairy farm in St Helena Parish we asked consultants and state and
federal officials how we could best take care of the land. We wanted to be ahead of
government rules and regulations. So we built that farm to be zero-effluent. You may
remember the Tangipahoa River had to close to swimmers for a few years because of the
runoff from nearby dairies. No manure-contaminated water leaves our property. We capture
it and reuse it as fertilizer. We have, no doubt about it, a state of the art dairy
operation, especially when it comes to the environment.
QUALITY and SERVICE
“What’s going to keep us in business for another hundred years is quality, and never
thinking that its good enough. You have to keep improving your quality, and your service.
You’ve got to be there with your product when the customer‘s ready for it, before
they even know they want it.”
We’ve actually lost customers because they wanted to leave for a cheaper
price, but then they’d try the other product and found it was cheaper because
the quality isn’t there, so then they’d come back.
“We called our team together last year to talk about how to celebrate our
100th year. There were some great ideas being passed around. Then Habitat
for Humanity called and told us they are building their 300th home in Baton
Rouge and we thought, ‘This is it! We will celebrate their 300th and our
100th by doing something that’s been a tradition giving back to the community
with families helping families.” – Sue Anne Kleinpeter Cox