Until the Cows Come Home

Posted in Blog, Farming on Wednesday, July 03, 2024

When Janice Baginski started her popular Othello bakery, she knew two things for certain: she would have no shortage of little helpers, and she had a hookup for the freshest milk around.

Until the Cows Come Home

WHEN JANICE BAGINSKI SAID the baked goods at Cow Path Bakery in Othello were made from scratch, she really wasn't kidding. As she began mixing the dough for their famous raspberry rolls, she could trace the origin of the ingredients all the way back to a happy cow raised on the family's farm.

"We get to use a lot of milk — which, that's what we're all about," she said as she poured scalded whole milk from the family dairy into a KitchenAid mixer. She said the special thing about this dough, which they also use for their cinnamon rolls, is that it doesn't contain eggs,
making it light, fluffy, and moist.

Janice and her husband, Chris, own the Cow Path Bakery and help run the family dairy business, Dan Maur Farms, which Chris's parents, Dan and Maureen Baginski, founded in 1967. When Janice joined the family, she started out by helping at the dairy, eventually opening a pop-up bakery in 2020 and the Cow Path Bakery in 2022.

Janice and Chris have three kids — Nate, Eli, and Peyton— who often join their parents at either the bakery or the dairy.

"Yeah, my free-range children," Janice said, laughing. "They're really good kids; they make parenting easy."

The kids help out at both businesses. Janice said Nate, who at the time was almost 11, likes to help run the till, and Eli helps build the boxes at the bakery. At the dairy, Chris said the kids help with day-to-day operations like feeding the calves and cleaning.

"You take care of the cows, the cows will take care of you," he said, pointing at rows of cattle calmly chewing their cud in the shade. "We keep a happy environment here."

Chris said they do their best to make the conditions comfortable and peaceful for the cows. A comfortable cow, he said, will lie down and chew her cud, which helps her produce milk. The cows also get lots of exercise and room to roam around, as well as plenty of shade so they don't overheat.

"It's like a spa resort!" said Washington Grown host Kristi Gorenson with a laugh.

"It's as close as we can get to it, you know, without a swimming pool and a massage therapist," said Chris, smiling.

In the dairy's milking parlor, where the last lineup of cows was getting milked for the morning, Chris used a device with an iodine-based disinfectant and bristles to clean a cow's udder, wiping it down with a soft cloth afterward. A vacuum milking machine was attached to each udder, and milk began pumping out.

Chris said the cows have certain times of day they prefer to come into the parlor, and they often come in the same order every time. Each cow can produce six to eight gallons of milk a day.

"We start at 4 a.m.," said Chris. "The cows come in side by side — they kind of have a buddy system."

Outside the milking parlor, calves flicked their tails as they basked in the sunshine. A soft, orangey-brown Jersey calf, only about a month old, approached the fence to nuzzle Gorenson's hand.

"This is where we raise all of our calves," said Chris, explaining that they try to have the cows give birth every 15 months or so, to keep milk production up. The calves drink the milk from the cows that can't be used for human consumption.

"Some farmers use powdered milk," said Chris, "but we prefer straight from the tank."

As he walked over to a row of black-and-white adult Holsteins and light brown Jerseys, a Brown Swiss cow stuck her head through the fence and licked Chris's Finger.

"They're very curious," he said. "And unlike many people believe, they do not give chocolate milk."

Chris and Nate entered a huge, open-air freestall barn with two rows of cows munching on food, others roaming freely behind them, and some lying down in open stalls. Chris explained that the freestall barn is great for the climate of Eastern Washington, because it allows airflow and keeps the cows cool and shaded from the sun.

"Happy cows make a happy life," he said.

And happy cows make delicious milk, which is used to make the treats for sale at the Cow Path Bakery.

When Washington Grown visited the bakery, one loyal customer stood in front of the counter, deliberating what he wanted to order.

“When I want to have something sweet to eat, this is the place," he said. "I have a different favorite every week. One week it may be these caramel sticky buns. And then the next week, the raspberry rolls."

In the kitchen, Janice rolled out the dough for the next batch of raspberry rolls. She spread a cream cheese mixture over the dough — "I'm all about anything dairy" — before adding a sweet raspberry filling on top of that. She rolled up the dough into a long tube and cut it into slices before popping the tray into the oven.

"Everything is made from scratch," she said. "If we can make it in-house, we will."

In the dining area, a customer raved about her favorite treat at the bakery: Janice's tarts. "I could eat those all day long," she said. "Literally, you can't go wrong with anything here. It's all good."

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