Pete and Matt Tetzner are 4th generation farmers on their family farm in Washburn, Wisconsin. Washburn sits up in the northern part of the state with their farm overlooking lake Superior. Pete and Matt own and operate the family farm with their dad, Greg, and their Uncle, Kevin.
It all started in 1891 when Pete and Matt’s Great Great Grandfather, Frank, moved to the United States from Germany and opened a meat market in Wisconsin. The first piece of farmland was purchased in the early 1900’s. Frank bought two 40-acre plots in Washburn where he cared for six dairy cows. The farm was then passed down to Ernest, son of Frank, and then to Phil, son of Ernest, and then to Greg and Kevin, sons of Ernest.
From those original 80 acres and six dairy cows, the Tetzner farm has grown into a 500 acre, 60 dairy cow operation. With Phil still very much involved, Greg, Kevin, Pete and Matt work together to farm the land and milk and care for the cows.
It was after Pete and Matt both graduated high school and tech school that they both started farming full-time. Pete has now been farming full-time for 14 years, and Matt has been farming for 12 years. They both live nearby the farm with their families. Pete and his wife, Beth, have two children, as do Matt and his wife, Kristin.
In January 2014, Tetzners made the decision to change their milking system from a parlor to robotic milking due to efficiency and ease of milking a robot provides. Robotic milking frees them up from milking for multiple hours twice a day and ensures that their herd is producing the most milk possible. With the robot, each cow is milked three times per day, and the cows wear collars to track their activity and provide alerts to help improve reproduction, production efficiency, animal welfare and food safety.
With the help of the robotic milker, they all have more flexibility to do other things they enjoy, like fixing up old tractors. With the help of their dad and uncle, Pete and Matt started fixing old tractors together when they were in middle school. Since that time, they have restored 12 White tractors and 20 Oliver tractors. Because White and Oliver tractors are no longer being made, Pete and Matt keep all the tractors they restore.
Being freed up from milking twice a day has also allowed them more time to focus on their milk and ice cream business, called Tetzner's Dairy. It all began in 1920 when Ernest, with the help of his family, began bottling and selling raw milk in Washburn via horse and cart. Then in 1943, after the family bought a car, Phil, at the age of 12, got his license so he could drive into town to continue to sell raw milk to the locals. In the 1970’s, when the sale of raw milk become illegal in Wisconsin, Tetzners made the decision to build a small processing plant and store on their farm to pasteurize and homogenize their milk so that they could continue to sell. At the time, the only milk they sold was whole milk, but then there became demand for 2% milk. When they started processing 2% milk, they discovered they had a lot of excess cream. So, in 1986, Pete and Matt’s grandparents decided to turn that cream into ice cream!
Today, the Tetzners sell bagged whole, 2% and skim milk. They also make 8 flavors of ice cream and ice cream sandwiches, all made with their own milk.
In the early 1980’s, they would bag between 600-700 gallons of milk every other day. Today, due to decreased demand for milk and a saturated market, they now bag about 300 gallons every other day. The ice cream is made once, sometimes twice, per week. Last year they sold over 10,000 gallons of ice cream!
Tetzners have a motto of never making more than they can sell. Their milk is never produced more than 2 days prior to when it’s purchased and ice cream is never on the shelf for more than a week. After bagging milk and making ice cream, National Farmers Organization picks up their excess milk for sale in the milk market.
All products made by the Tetzners are sold directly out of the store on their farm. Tetzners never deliver their products, and purchasing is all done through the honor system. This way they can focus on doing what they do best, producing quality milk and making delicious ice cream. People come from all around to pick up their products. Their customers range from the neighbors down the road to eight local grocery stores that stock up on both their milk and ice cream. As well, local schools and community groups will stock up on their products for events. You could say that Tetzner’s dairy products are a local favorite.