By Melissa Mendonca
One Smart Cookie
Story by Melissa Mendonca
Photos by Alexis LeClair
LORI DUIVENVOORDEN realized something early on when sampling raw milk from her family’s Cottonwood dairy farm to potential customers. “Cookies always seem to bring people to the booth,” she says. The classic combination of milk and cookies seemed a natural for the family’s first Raw Milk and Cookies Day, where they invited the public to learn the benefits of their raw milk. An annual event that initially drew 150 has grown to bring 1,500 to their farm. No doubt, the cookies are now as much a part of the draw as the milk.
“I started as a cottage home baker, like most people,” says Duivenvoorden. “After about six months I went to the state and got my process food permit. I can ship now.” The business was able to grow so quickly due to the family taking advice to add a commercial kitchen to the milk processing plant they built for the farm. “Someone suggested it because there weren’t a lot of commercial kitchens around,” she adds.
A Type 1 diabetic, Duivenvoorden knows the value of a keto dessert. “I started experimenting with the keto recipes and they can be very difficult,” she says. “People will buy the ingredients and try to make them and they fail. And they’re expensive. Sometimes it’s just easier to buy something that already tastes good.” Her own trials and tribulations perfecting her keto cookie recipes have led to products that have reduced aftertaste for the sugar substitutes. A keto pecan bar is particularly popular.
With her kitchen license, Duivenvoorden now ships globally and revels in the fact that her cookies have found their way to other continents. “The furthest I’ve shipped is Australia,” she says. “They did an unboxing video when they received the cookies.”
Still, local businesses hold a special place in her heart, especially those that agreed early on to sell her cookies. The cookies are a natural fit for local coffee houses, with many finding that they sell out quickly. She’s particularly appreciative of her hometown coffee spot, The Bean in Cottonwood. “They make their own cookies,” Duivenvoorden says. “They wanted to sell my cookies, too, because they are very community oriented. They sell out every week.”
If Lori Duivenvoorden becomes the next Mrs. Fields, it will be by design and intention. “I really want to make something bigger of this,” she says. “I hope to one day leave it to my family, the younger generation that has been so supportive.”
The goal of succession is right in the vein of the family farm where the cookies are made and four generations live on land that’s been in the Duivenvoorden name for 57 years. “We feel very fortunate to be working, and to be working with our kids,” says Duivenvoorden. “Our grandkids run around that farm. We feel very privileged to be there. My husband’s been here his entire life.”
While the cookie business is growing, so too is the dairy. “We’re a raw milk dairy with retail sales in stores,” says Duivenvoorden. “Our cows are 100 percent grass fed. It’s a niche market. We’re not selling to the masses but we are growing and we’re expanding to Grass Valley.”
“The milk and cookies obviously go hand in hand,” she says. While raw milk and keto cookies may be unusual to some consumers, Duivenvoorden takes great pride when they discover they like them. “When people try something that they like, it just makes me feel good,” she says. “I’m not artsy. I’m not very creative. I don’t spend much time on if the cookie looks beautiful. But I do care a lot how they taste.” •
Melissa Mendonca is a graduate of San Francisco State and Tulane universities. She’s a lover of airports and road trips and believes in mentoring and service to create communities everyone can enjoy. Her favorite words are rebar, wanderlust and change.