Ben Loewith likes to dream big, just like his grandfather Joe. Joe’s dream of freedom propelled him to flee Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia 75 years ago, claim previous farming experience to Canadian immigration authorities and purchase a parcel of land and 16 cows. Joe’s sons, Carl and Dave transformed that parcel of land into one of Canada’s most respected and best-managed dairy farms.
Now it’s Carl’s son, Ben who is proving himself a worthy heir to the family legacy by fulfilling the dream of processing and bottling their own milk with the much-anticipated opening of Summit Station Dairy and Creamery.
The Loewiths began thinking about expanding their offerings not long after the 2018 NAFTA talks, which concluded with Canada being forced to eliminate a milk pricing system that shielded Canadian dairy farmers from foreign competition. But the pandemic’s arrival in 2020, which brought about increased demand for local food and farm tours, helped them see tremendous potential for growth in diversification.
It was around this time that Ben’s wife, Jennifer Howe got involved. At the outset of their marriage 23 years earlier, she let her husband know she was not interested in milking cows or waking at 4 a.m. But Howe could not help but be caught up in her husband’s dream.
“Carl had just retired; Dave was on the verge of retiring and Ben had these grand plans,” she said. “One, you’re going to need help; two, you’re going to talk to me about it constantly, so I might as well be involved.”
It’s been a steep learning curve for Howe, who initially saw herself working on marketing and branding. But it wasn’t long before she was designing HVAC systems.
“A project of this scale requires different skills than Carl, Dave or I have,” said Ben. “There’s a tremendous amount of organization that has to be done and that’s where Jen really came in. Quite honestly, it wouldn’t have been possible without her being part of the management team.”
The Loewith farm has a long tradition of interacting with the public at its popular open houses and farm tours, but Summit Station, marketed as “Hamilton’s only family-run, on-farm dairy” promises to make the farm into a major agritourism destination. That’s why they designed their new 10,000-square-foot facility to include an airy retail space with enormous viewing windows through which people can view the pasteurizing and bottling process, and a large room for tour groups to gather.
Designed to resemble the original Summit Station, a stop on the corner of Powerline Road and Highway 52 on the old TH&B Railway line, the facility is scheduled to open in October, although home delivery of farm fresh milk, cheese curds and yogurt begins this month.
Environmental sustainability being a long-held Loewith family core value, Summit Station milk will be delivered in returnable glass bottles (they’re aiming for a minimum of 20 uses) strictly to destinations within a half-hour radius from the farm. Plans are also in the works for a solar energy panel that will supply three quarters of the energy for the entire farm.
Carl and Dave Loewith let Ben and Howe do most of the talking during the HJN’s visit to the Loewith farm last April, but the expression on the brothers’ faces left no doubt about how they’re feeling about handing over the reins to the next generation.
“If it wasn’t for the energy of these two,” said a beaming Dave Loewith, “it wouldn’t have happened.” But over and above their palpable excitement at seeing their company dream become reality, Dave and Carl are filled with a sense of wonder and gratitude.
“It’s been such a wonderful experience, first of all to learn a bunch of new things. Second of all, at 70 years of age, meeting a whole cadre of new people,” said Dave. “Certainly, there have been a lot of hurdles to get over but all the people doing their own processing have been incredibly open in telling us mistakes that they’ve made.”
And that, said Carl, has been the nature of the dairy business for the last 100 years. “You go to a farm and they’ll tell you what works and doesn’t work.”
It’s equally clear that Carl can’t wait for October, when he and his brother will be responsible for conducting weekly farm tours, a welcome opportunity for dispelling misconceptions some people have about animal agriculture and dairy farming. “It’s going to be a great educational tool for the average consumer to come out here and actually see what goes on behind that bottle of milk, how we treat our animals,” he said.
Nothing makes Ben and Howe happier than hearing Carl and Dave wax enthusiastic about the project to which the four have devoted so much time and energy over the last three years.
“Everybody knows Carl and Dave. Here Carl is 76 years old and Dave is 71 ... It’s been such a joy in retirement to have this new thing to be excited about,” said Howe. “So, even though they’re not getting up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows, they’re going to be in there helping with cheese curds or greeting people in the store. This is the next chapter for them.”
LISTEN TO THE SHPIEL ON THE LOEWITH FAMILY FARM