Naturally Rockford: Guest Column: The freshest yogurt you’ve ever tasted available at Choices Natural Market

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I’ve known Krista Liddell my entire life. But she wasn’t always Krista Liddell—she was, at one time, Krista Hunziker. But when she married my Uncle Pete, she became Mrs. Liddell.

Krista founded Whispering Meadows Farm with her father, Junior, and her two brothers, Kevin and Joe. They make yogurt, and it is good. Not just, “Oh, that was tasty” good, but good as in, “Are you sure this isn’t a sin?” good.

It’s not surprising that the Hunziker family has created such a delicious product. They’ve been in the dairy business for nearly a century.

It all started when Krista’s great-grandfather Hunziker came over from Switzerland in 1911, and started his own farm, milking six Brown Swiss cows by hand. He passed the reins over to his son, Krista’s grandfather, and Junior Hunziker took over the family farm in 1959.

Junior switched over from Brown Swiss to Holsteins, and has raised them for nearly 50 years. Along the way, Junior grew tired of giving away his hard-earned money to have his fields sprayed, and began to farm organically, meaning no pesticides and toxic chemicals or antibiotics.

The Hunzikers have farmed this way for more than 25 years, and hold the honor and title of being the first dairy farm to become organically certified in Illinois. In 1996, they began selling their milk to Organic Valley Family Farms, a company that sells a variety of organic foods across the country. Less than a decade later, Krista had an idea to expand the family business. She shared it with her father and brothers, and they were enthusiastic about the proposal. They would make yogurt.

Unfortunately for the Hunzikers, milk does not magically turn into yogurt and sell itself. They thought about it for a while, unsure whether fewer they should go through with the venture and take the steps necessary to begin the process. Krista was still thinking it over when she joined her husband on a trip to Wisconsin, where the entire Liddell clan had assembled to celebrate Krista’s in-laws (my Pop and Grandma’s) 50th wedding anniversary.

It was on that trip that my grandmother gave Krista an article she had cut out of the local paper. It was about a woman named Karen King, who was planning to open an organic food store in Rockford. The puzzle pieces floating around in Krista’s mind quickly snapped into place. When she returned home, Krista called Karen and asked if she had any interest in buying organic yogurt from a local farm. A few months later, they were in business together.

The opening of Choices Natural Market in July 2005 was shortly followed by the creation of Whispering Meadows Farm Yogurt in November of that same year.

Whispering Meadows has been wildly popular among those who have tried it, and has been described by at least one buyer as “a mouthful of goodness,” which it truly is. It not only tastes amazing, but it is among the healthiest yogurts available. Two flavors are available—plain and vanilla—which keeps their list of ingredients simple, giving them what is known as a “clean label.” Having a “clean label” means their yogurt doesn’t contain gluten, aspartame, pectin, gelatin, cornstarch or any of the other additives that name brand companies, such as Dannon or Breyers, put in their products.

This yogurt is made from uncomplicated healthy items that, when combined, have the capacity to send your taste buds into a state of sheer ecstasy.

Oh, and it’s fresh. How fresh? Let’s start at the beginning…

The cows are milked by the Hunzikers twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. The milk is put into a tank on the back of a pickup truck that is driven to a Grade A Dairy Plant in Wisconsin, where the milk is made into yogurt. The yogurt is packaged and delivered the next day, usually by Krista herself. This means that, in fewer than 24 four hours from the milk being taken from the cow, you could be enjoying spoonful after spoonful of this dairy delight.

If you wanted it any fresher, you would have to suck it from the teat of a magical yogurt cow. Good luck finding one of those. Meantime, give Whispering Meadows Farm Yogurt a try.

You can find Whispering Meadows Farm Yogurt at Choices Natural Market, 6551 E. Riverside Blvd., between Mulford and Perryville, across the street from The Basil Café.

from the May 16-22, 2007, issue

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