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Fourth Generation Family Farmers Find Success In Organic Yogurt

It doesn’t get much more “old economy” than farming. According to National Geographic, the earliest farms date back about 12,000 years and marked the beginning of permanent settlements and reliable food supplies. Since then, farmers have had to adapt to a continual shift in climate patterns, technologies, ecological forces, and market dynamics to succeed.

That’s as true now as it was in the early days of agriculture. A case in point is Painterland Farms in Tioga County, PA, — a fourth-generation family farm that now serves as the home base to the Painterland Sisters yogurt company.

Photo Courtesy Painterland Sisters  

Painterland Sisters specializes in organic skyr-style yogurt, which represents a departure from what the farm specialized in for most of its 80-plus years of operation. The two sisters who run the company and serve as co-CEOs — Hayley and Stephanie Painter — grew up on the 5,000-acre Painterland farm when it was a traditional dairy farm.

After going away to college and “traveling the world,” they decided to return home, only to find that the agriculture market had changed. 

“If you don’t have a milk market, you can’t necessarily keep your dairy cows,” Hailey told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star in a recent interview. “We had 400 cows, and so, we did have a milk market, but it was unstable times. So, we wanted to tackle the problem.”  

Photo Courtesy Painterland Sisters


She and Stephanie began looking for ways to make the farm sustainable, stable, and successful. This brainstorming led them to launch an organic yogurt company in March 2022.

The company’s signature product is organic skyr, which is a “thicker, creamier” Icelandic-style” of yogurt, and is lactose-free and high in probiotics and protein, Stephanie told “Forbes” in a 2022 interview.

It’s produced in Pennsylvania and made from organic whole milk. Sweeteners are provided naturally, using fruits and cane sugar sourced from nearby U.S. farms.

It didn’t take long for consumers to discover the product. In its first year, Painterland Sisters generated $1.3 million in sales, the “Pennsylvania Capital-Star” reported. As of August 2023, the company website says the yogurt is sold in 49 states. 

Photo Courtesy Painterland Sisters

The farm itself has been in the family since 1941. In 2003, it transitioned to U.S. Department of Agriculture certified-organic. The yogurt produced there is pasture-raised, non-GMO, and free of antibiotics, hormones, and chemicals.

“We both grew up on our family farm alongside our 13 cousins and feel deeply connected to the land and the animals,” Stephanie told “Forbes.” “As farmers, we now have the opportunity to take control of our own destiny by connecting directly with consumers.”

Hayley, the younger of the two sisters, admits that returning to the family farm after years of college and traveling took some getting used to.

“When I was younger, I took for granted the unique opportunity I was born into,” she said to “Forbes.” “I couldn’t wait to go to college and experience the unknown: to wear white shoes instead of boots, to expand my palate of new foods, and to have neighbors that weren’t my family members or cows.”

But both sisters also felt a deep connection to the land, which led them back home. Since returning, they’ve brought a 21st-century, eco-friendly mindset to the farm by practicing sustainable and regenerative farming.

Video Courtesy Painterland Sisters

“One of the hottest topics right now is regenerative farming on the store and consumer side,” Hayley told the “Pennsylvania Capital-Star.” “Yet, farming is starting to transition to that and connecting the farmer to what the consumer wants.” 

Painterland Sisters has also used 21st-century communication tools to connect with consumers. As the “Pennsylvania Capital-Star” noted, the family farm has more than 6,000 followers on Instagram, where users can “learn about the Painter family,” their farming practices, and their dairy cows.“[Followers] love seeing the pictures and seeing the backstory, and we want to keep providing that for them,” Hayley said. “It’s been a lot of positivity and almost, a taste for more.”

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