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Clear Spring Creamery got its start in the Seibert kitchen

June 10, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

CLEAR SPRING - Every weekend, regular as clockwork, Mark and Clare Seibert load up their children and head for Washington, D.C., with the milk, yogurt and cheese produced at their small Clear Spring Creamery.

"We sell our wares at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market," Clare Seibert said.

On a typical Saturday, they sell 75 bottles of yogurt, 150 bottles of white and chocolate milk, and about 40 wheels of Camembert cheese.

The cheese sells for about $13 a round. The milk is pasteurized but not homogenized. They sell no raw milk.

Business is so good that often the items are sold out by midday and the family heads back home to Clear Spring.

"There is a huge demand," she said. "Someday it will make money, but it has been a big investment."

Clare Seibert said farmers like her and her husband are looking for less traditional ways to make money.

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The Seiberts milk 28 Jersey and Holstein-Jersey mixed cows on their farm on St. Paul Road near Clear Spring. In March, they retrofitted an existing building so they could pasteurize the milk, as well as make yogurt and cheese.

Strict rules of cleanliness mandate plastic booties, hair coverings and high standards for all containers and processes. The same rules apply for a small operation as for a major dairy products producer.

Not a farm girl, Clare Seibert, 38, said she always wanted to be one. Her husband works for the USDA and helps with the farm duties.

"I started this in my kitchen for the first year," she said.

The Seiberts went to several conferences and learned about starting up the business.

There are a few creameries in Maryland but Clare Seibert knows of no others in Washington County. There is one in Frederick County, Md., near South Mountain.

"I come up to the building at 7 a.m. when the kids get on the bus," she said. "Then I start processing milk and am at it until 2:45 p.m. when they get off the bus."

Milk and yogurt are processed daily. Cheese, especially the Camembert, has to age for six weeks.

"Our cows are all grass-fed - they get fresh grass every day," she said.

The couple's business card even says "grass never tasted better."

The Seibert farm has been in the family for more than 100 years, but Mark and Clare Seibert have only been in the dairy business for about a year and a half. At that point, they transitioned from a farm that raised replacement heifers for sale to a true dairy.

For two months during the winter, there is a break when there is no milk and the cows are having calves. Then it all starts up again in the spring.

For more information about the Clear Spring Creamery, go to clearspringcreamery.com.

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