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Clover Organic producer Bucher Farms joined the Clover Sonoma family in 1999, and was one of the original farms to leave the Petaluma Cooperative Creamery to follow the Clover brand. Owned by John and Diane Bucher, this diversified farming operation in Healdsburg, CA, has been in their family for nearly 60 years.
John grew up on the dairy and attended UC Davis where he graduated in 1984 with a double major in Animal Science/Ag Economics. In addition to managing the daily operations of the dairy, John grows premium wine grapes on the same property in the Russian River Valley. He and Diane raised their blended family of five children on the farm, and son Tony Klisura is currently working on the dairy while attending Santa Rosa Junior College.
The Bucher family story begins in the early 1950s when John’s parents, Joe and Annemarie, immigrated to the United States from Luzern, Switzerland. Joe grew up in the tiny town of Inwil on a small dairy which was started by his grandfather in 1897. After Joe’s older brother took over the farm, he decided to immigrate to California and spent several years working on dairies in Santa Clara and San Jose before falling in love with the Russian River Valley. In 1958, he used his hard earned savings to purchase 360 acres of land outside Healdsburg (once part of the original 11,000 acre White-O Ranch). Settling in, he and Annemarie realized their dream of starting a dairy farm. What began as a modest herd of fifty mixed breed dairy cows has evolved under John’s watch to approximately 700 Holstein and Brown Swiss milk cows—many descendants of the original herd- while managing nearly 2,000 acres of organic pasture.
In 1997, with rapid changes to the California dairy industry and with profit margins on the decline, John decided to diversify the farming operation by planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapevines. Today, with over 55 acres of vineyard in production, the value added crop has increased the farm’s bottom line. Although most of the grapes are sold to other local wineries, John and Diane decided to launch their own wine brand, Bucher Wines, in 2011 by crushing a few tons from the vineyard.
“I grow the grapes. Diane handles marketing and sales, and we work with a consulting winemaker to oversee the wine making,” says John. The couple released their first signature wines in 2013.
With an eye toward adding additional value to their farm products, the Buchers began the process of converting their land and animals from conventional to organic dairy production in 2005. By January 2013, the dairy herd and milk produced on the farm was 100% organic.
As a long time Clover producer, John sees himself as part of a team.
“I really value our partnership with Clover,” he says. “I like that the product we produce is local, fresh, and part of another family owned business. The milk we make today is in the store tomorrow or the next day. That really builds consumer confidence.”
“People like to know where their products are coming from and meet the people who farm them,” he reflects. “That connection makes it real. We’re here working hard to get the products to market every day, but when we are able to meet consumers it instills loyalty. If we’re going to promote local brands, we need to be the face of those brands. It’s an important marketing tool that we have here in Sonoma County, and it sets us apart.”
Being a member of the Clover family is also important to the Buchers.
“The Benedettis have a business that promotes family,” says John. “They take care of their employees and their producers. If there’s a problem, I know I can pick up the phone and call (Clover President & CEO) Marcus direct, because we have a long history and a connection I trust. That’s a good feeling. Business is about having that kind of a relationship.”