Only 15 years ago, Oahu housed 30 dairies. Now the Hawaiian island has a single option, Naked Cow Dairy, a boutique dairy from longtime dairy manager Monique Van der Stroom and sister Sabrina St. Martin. Their dairy, situated on Oahu’s Leeward Coast, harnesses the power of 20 cows to produce butter, milk, buttermilk and “value added products” like cheese and yogurt. As Van der Stroom learned over the years, milk isn’t enough for a dairy to survive. Given their diversified products and progressive business practices, which include rotating pastures to save on feed cost, they stand a much better chance to move beyond mere survival.
“No use for boys around here, just the girls.” So said St. Martin on our tour of the property, where we met the resident milk cows. She added, “These are all our employees here, just the girls.”
Naked Cow exclusively has Holstein breed cows, but they plan to add Jersey and Jersey/Holstein crosses to generate a higher fat content for their milk.
They’ve sold butter for two years, churning heavy cream to order in a rotating rotisserie drum. They’ve developed some inventive flavors of butter that often utilize local produce, including garlic & herb, fresh cream, pesto, Hawaiian salt, roasted toasted coconut, mac nut honey and truffle. Naked Cow also produces cheese, which takes about four days, including Feta, cream cheese and yogurt cheese. At the time of our visit, they were about to add Havarti and Cheddar to the rotation.
The land that houses Naked Cow has been a dairy for four decades. Operations ceased seven years ago, and it took Van der Stroom and St. Martin to kickstart matters. They milk cows, 15 animals at a time, to fill stainless steel tanks.
The sisters set up a tasting of their products for our global group of food writers, including tangy Greek yogurt with sweet macerated Maui strawberries; plus garlic herb yogurt cheese, strained and pressed Greek yogurt lavished with olive oil, locally sourced rosemary and thyme.
It was welcome to see the sisters revive a dying agricultural tradition, and doubly welcome to see that their products tasted good, which is something Hawaiians are learning at local farmers markets.
Note: My visit to Naked Cow Dairy was part of a media tour sponsored by the Oahu Convention & Visitors Bureau