Nancy's Cultured Dairy and Soy

Sue and Chuck Kesey

Producer Profile

Producers: Sue and Chuck Kesey

Located in: Eugene, Ore.

Supplying PCC since: as long as we can remember

Supplies to PCC: Fresh cottage cheese, kefir, sour cream, cream cheese, and dairy and soy yogurts. Springfield Creamery uses local rBGH-free milk, fresh, organic soy milk, real fruit, no cane sugar and live, beneficial probiotics.

Five decades of dairy traditions: In 2010, Springfield Creamery celebrates 50 years of crafting delicious yogurt and other dairy products. The family-owned and operated creamery began making Nancy's yogurt in 1970, delivering the first batches to customers in the early 1970s in glass canning jars.

Yes, there is a Nancy: Nancy's namesake is Nancy Hamren, who came to work at Springfield Creamery as a bookkeeper but luckily also knew how to make yogurt from her grandmother. Her experience, paired with Chuck Kesey's expertise with probiotics and cultures, formed a perfect match.

Delicious, organic yogurt

Springfield Creamery, makers of Nancy's brand dairy products, has been a familial adventure for Sue and Chuck Kesey for decades.

In 1960, with fresh degrees in business and dairy technology from Oregon State University, the Keseys opened Springfield Creamery in Springfield, Ore. At first they did custom bottling and provided milk to Springfield schools. With the growth of the natural foods movement in the early 1970s, they saw an opportunity to try something new.

springfield creamery

Chuck was interested in the emerging concept of incorporating beneficial cultures, such as L. acidophilus, into dairy products. The Creamery's bookkeeper, Nancy Hamren, had been making yogurt at home for years. Together they tinkered with formulas at the creamery and came up with Nancy's Yogurt. The first small batches were sold down the road at the Willamette People's Co-op.

An encouraging friend from the San Francisco Bay area convinced the Keseys that there was a larger market for their new product. He drove a U-Haul full of Nancy's Yogurt wrapped in blankets all the way to San Francisco through the middle of a winter's night.

Sue Kesey laughs about the fact that everyone was starting out then. One of their first delivery drivers was Huey Lewis (yes, of Huey Lewis and the News) — just a guy who delivered Nancy's Yogurt during the day and played in a band at night. She admits, "We had no clue. We were in the right place at the right time with a product that had integrity. We were very lucky."

With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, the family business continued to grow. In 1979, they bought 10 acres of industrial-zoned land in Eugene, Oregon, knowing they would need a larger facility. Springfield Creamery moved into its newly built 20,000- square-foot facility in 1987.

We had no clue. We were in the right place at the right time with a product that had integrity. We were very lucky. — Sue Kesey of Springfield Creamery

"When we first bought the land, we planted evergreen trees around the perimeter of the property — redwood, sequoia, pine and fir," Sue says. "Now those trees are more than 20 years old. Two-thirds of the property is still open fields and you can go out back for a private walk in the middle of the day." They even have a greenhouse to tinker in and keep the office replete with fresh roses and orchids.

Over the years, the Nancy's product line has grown to include yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese, kefir and sour cream. In 1994, as some Nancy's loyalists will remember, a devastating fire erupted in the Springfield Creamery, completely shutting down production for three weeks. A reduced production was squeezed into a 6,000-square-foot undamaged cooler building until the main building could be rebuilt.

Nancy's Cottage Cheese lovers were out of luck for an entire year. With their steadfast customers and longtime employees, the Springfield Creamery rebounded completely.

springfield creamery

In 1996 Springfield Creamery introduced their line of organic yogurt and other organic dairy products when a consistent supply of organic milk became available. All the milk in Nancy's products comes from local cows that live within 50 miles of the Creamery.

The Keseys are committed to keeping Springfield Creamery from getting too big. Sue says, "We started with just a couple (Chuck and me). If we got too much bigger, we'd lose the nice, family-type things we are able to do. We're happy with the size."

By Alicia Lundquist Guy, Sound Consumer, April 2003. Updated February 2010

More about: dairy, dairy alternatives, milk, yogurt