Cows, Cheese and Spirits – an Innovative Trifecta

November 16, 2023

Along a road less traveled (for now at least) just north of Brooten lies Jer-Lindy Farms and Redhead Creamery, a family-owned farm, creamery and soon-to-be distillery co-owned by Jerry and Linda Jennissen and Alise and Lucas Sjostrom.

What started as a small family farm has grown to a fun, unique operation, with even more innovation in the works.

“Jerry and Linda began farming together in 1979, moving to their current location in 1983,” owner Lucas Sjostrom explained. “Amid the 1980s farm crisis, both Jerry and Linda had to take off-farm jobs to support their family of six, including four redheaded daughters. But a lot of hard work and love was put into the operation over the years to make it what it is today.”

Today, Jer-Lindy Farms operates on 300 acres and houses 200 dairy cows. But it’s home to so much more.

Alise, the daughter of Jerry and Linda, fulfilled her lifelong dream of owning a creamery when Redhead Creamery came to life in 2014. The small cheese production facility was built on the family’s dairy farm and makes cheese up to five days a week, based on demand.

The words “fresh” and “local” have never been truer when it comes to cheese produced at Redhead Creamery. Milk flows directly from the milk parlor at the farm to the cheese room of Redhead Creamery. And from there, the magic happens.

Today, Redhead Creamery cheese is sold right on-site at Jer-Lindy farms, but is also available in certain stores in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois.

“Eating is a visceral part of life. Seeing something enjoyed that we know we made – there is really nothing better,” Sjostrom said.

But that is not all! Big plans are in progress to open Redhead Creamery Spirits right next door to the cheese shop, using the whey leftover from the cheesemaking process at its base for business. The distillery expects its first bottled spirits to be available by year-end.

The distillery is the first of its kind in Minnesota, and one of only a few even in the United States that is making spirits from whey. What truly makes it unique is that it’s the first in the world located on a dairy farm that is filtering and fermenting its own feedstock. The filtration system allows the distillery to recapture the “cow water” and use it for proofing the spirits, essentially creating the most sustainable product possible.

“This whole project makes our operation more sustainable and unique. The distillery benefits the cheese plant, which benefits the dairy farm – they all support each other,” Sjostrom explained.

Stearns Electric and our wholesale power provider, Great River Energy, have worked together to support Jer-Lindy Farms in its endeavors with funding through the Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program (REDLG).

“This project is a huge win for the area. We’re thrilled to support the Jennissens and Sjostroms in their new business venture,“ John Pantzke, Manager of Energy Services at Stearns Electric, explained.

“One of our biggest goals with the distillery is to get more traffic out to our farm here,” Sjostrom concluded. “We want to hold distillery tours that allow visitors to come spend the day meeting the cows, observing the cheesemaking and distilling process and enjoying a drink and some cheese, all made with milk produced on the farm.”