Fourth-generation farmer and Oklahoma native Travis Marak didn’t plan on returning to his family’s dairy farm in Meeker. After finishing college, he embarked on a two-year journey around the world, visiting countries including Peru, New Zealand, Australia and Russia.
It wasn’t until his father, Steve, prepared to close Marak Family Farm that he realized he wanted to come home and continue the legacy his great-grandfather started in the early 1900s.
“I told my dad I wanted to keep the farm going,” Marak says. “I worked on several farms overseas, and it wasn’t until I left my family’s farm that I put two and two together, and understood how food was produced and how it was moved from the farm to consumers.”
Marak wanted to apply the mindset of “think globally, act locally,” he says, and to make a difference. So he decided to go back to Oklahoma and expand on his family’s operation.
“Plus, I didn’t want to see the farm I grew up on disappear, and the idea of continuing what had been started long before me was powerful,” he adds.
After returning to the farm in 2014, Marak began to help manage their herd of Milking Shorthorn cows, which he says are “really productive cows that do well in grazing operations like ours, and they have a good lifespan and calve easily.”
Of the herd, approximately half of the cows are milked twice daily – once in the morning and again at night – and they typically produce around 200 gallons
of milk per day.
“The work on a dairy farm never have to be milked every day, twice a day, and since 1970, we’ve never missed a day. There are obviously easier, less-demanding jobs out there, but I always knew I’d regret not being on the farm when
I looked back on my life.”
In addition to taking care of the cattle, Marak began planting crops like tomatoes, potatoes and okra on the farm’s unused land in an effort to contribute to Oklahoma’s growing local food movement.
New Bottling Operation Thrives
Marak Family Farm’s bottling operation is fairly new, launched in 2016 after Marak applied for and received a $10,000 farm diversification grant through the Oklahoma Agriculture Enhancement and Diversification Program in 2015. The grant funds were used to purchase a 100-gallon food service milk pasteurizer that heats the milk at 145 degrees for 30 minutes. Marak says this enables the milk to maintain its natural flavor and preserves probiotics while killing harmful bacteria.
Once it’s ready, the milk is available in quart-size glass bottles as well as plastic gallons and half-gallons, and it’s delivered to various grocery stores, restaurants and coffee shops in neighboring towns and even as far away as Oklahoma City. According to Marak, the milk is usually delivered the day after it’s taken from the cow, unless the customer is in Meeker. In that case, the milk is often on the shelf just hours after it was collected.
“Our milk is pretty fresh when customers receive it,” he says. “It’s sweet, and it’s non-homogenized, so the cream rises to the top. It’s also derived from one herd of cows, which is pretty rare.
“Our milk is from our cows and our cows only, and that makes a huge difference when it comes to taste,” he adds.
It’s safe to say Marak’s customers agree, because demand for the farm’s milk is on the rise. He’s considering expanding the farm’s dairy operation to create products like butter and ice cream.
“People have been very supportive of the work we’re doing,” Marak says. “The connection I have to the consumer and the ability to carry on a family tradition makes the hard work more than worth it.”