The Kesey Family
Still Family Owned and Operated
Sue and Chuck Kesey are the husband-and-wife team at the heart of Springfield Creamery. They met at Oregon State University in the late 1950's during a time when the natural foods movement was still in its infancy. Sue studied business and secretarial science. Chuck studied dairy technology. In retrospect, their educations set the stage for the business they would build together for over 40 years.
Sue and Chuck have been joined in running the company by their son, Kit Kesey, and their daughter, Sheryl Kesey Thompson. Sue manages much of the day-to-day business. Kit manages the plant's daily operations. Sheryl manages special projects that the creamery takes on. But Chuck is still the yogurt man for every run.
"We don't time our yogurt and we don't use pH meters to know when it's done," says Nancy. "Instead, we have Chuck...."
"We don't time our yogurt and we don't use pH meters to know when it's done," says Nancy. "Instead, we have Chuck. He comes down at the right time and sacrifices a half-pint and checks it. If it's not done, he goes off and fiddles around and comes back and tastes it again, and when it tastes right to him, he turns on the cooling mechanism."
Although it has grown, the creamery today is still very much a family and community enterprise. "We have a whole crop of 'Creamery Kids,'" says Sue. "It's a second generation of sons, daughters, nieces, husbands, wives and best friends of our original employees. And we've still got 20 and even 30-year employees in every phase of our operation. Chuck's cousin Leonard has been our pasteurizer forever. He started when he was 18, and he just turned 60."
A Community Enterprise
Over the years, Chuck and Sue have built Springfield Creamery into a real family enterprise - not just in terms of their own children, Sheryl and Kit - but in the sense of treating employees as family, and in a sense, the community as well. Nancy Hamren says: "Chuck and Sue have done a lot for the natural food world and this community. They share information, kindness, and access to equipment all the time. They have been generous to the community, and the community has been generous back to us."