GRACE HARBOR FARMS: HOW THE “MICROBREWERY OF DAIRY” FEEDS THE NEXT GENERATION
Located in Custer WA, Grace Harbor Farms is a family farm that is known and beloved for their all-natural cream top milk, yogurt, kefir, cultured buttermilk, and goat milk. The care and passion that they put into their products is a family value passed down through the generations.
David Lukens is the current, second generation owner and farmer at Grace Harbor. As he recalls, “My dad and stepmom started Grace Harbor Farms in 1999. They started it as a hobby farm. I was about 12 years old at the time. It grew into a soap and lotion company, where they’d make goat milk soap and lotion from the milk to sell at the farmers market. People started asking for Grade A goat milk, and so they got licensed to process that as well. Ever since 1999, we’ve been on this farming journey. It’s been the majority of my working lifetime. I grew up with this business. I ended up getting married and taking over the farm in 2020, right as Covid hit. Thankfully, we survived through all that and in 2022, we had the third generation born and involved in the farm!”
Grace Harbor Farms also acquired a sister farm, Misty Meadows Farm, in 2021 – they now sell organic eggs and 2400 chickens.
David is passionate about sharing the knowledge about what makes Grace Harbor so special – as well as the local dairy community. “At Grace Harbor, we don’t homogenize or separate the milk, which is different from about 99% of the milk on the shelf. It’s very true to the farm. The only thing we do is vat pasteurize to kill bad bacteria. The industry is so used to skim milk with Vitamin D added, but that makes it a highly processed food. We’ve gotten tons of letters and messages over the years saying, ‘I thought I was lactose intolerant, and then I tried your milk and it didn’t bother me!’”
David explains a little more about the science behind those stories. “There are A1 and A2 proteins in milk. Goat milk is A2, and we work with a couple independent dairy farms who also have A2 cows. It’s a much easier protein to digest for humans.”
It’s not just the finished product that is the highest quality, it’s also the process it takes to get there – and every dairy is unique. “I wish more people could actually see the animals and the creamery and we could talk about how all milk is not the same,” David says. “It reminds me of the microbrewery world 20 years ago, when people realized that beer wasn’t just beer – there were different processes and recipes, too. We consider ourselves the microbrewery of dairy.”
And Grace Harbor’s products, work ethic, and values are all to enrich and nourish their community. “Community is ultimately why we do this,” David explains. “We couldn’t do this without the support of them. It was super cool to see the foundation of that in the early days of the farmers market – people really want to support farmers and know about what we do. It makes this community unique.”
That community includes the Lukens family, the Grace Harbor team, and the food and farming community in the Northwest – especially Myshan Dairy, Steensma Creamery, Goldcrest Creamery, and Northwest Dairy Association.
“Not only do I do this to support my team and family, I also have a dream of supporting small farms. This current business model is phase one. We’re figuring out what equipment we need and what the market wants from our products. We want to take it to different parts of the state, and potentially other states, and launch satellite dairies. We want to keep small farms alive and keep bringing people nutrient-dense, delicious dairy products.”
And there’s no better taste-tester than the youngest Lukens. “It’s the most rewarding thing to see my ten-month-old son eat our products, and to see kids and babies enjoy it.” Grace Harbor Farms truly values products and practices that benefit not just this generation, but many to come.