Guernsey Farms Dairy

74 Years of Michigan-made, Family-backed Products
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

Since 1940 Guernsey Farms Dairy (GFD) has been a locally-owned family enterprise and a Michigan landmark. For the better part of a century, the Guernsey family has crafted quality, hormone-free dairy products from award-winning ice cream and chocolate milk to sour cream, buttermilk, egg nog and much more with local ingredients.

GFD’s story starts, and continues to remain, rooted in family ownership – a family of 14 children to be exact. “My father, John McGuire, founded the business in 1940,” reveals Martin “Marty” McGuire, second-generation president of GFD.

A Big Family with a Big Dream

John started his career in the dairy industry after he graduated from the Michigan Agriculture College, now part of Michigan State. “Over the years, he worked for many dairy operations,” recalls Marty.

John worked long days and nights in pursuit of the highest quality, best tasting milk and ice cream. “He began each day by picking up milk from local farms and bringing it to the dairy for pasteurization,” adds Marty. “Then he would deliver it directly to customer’s homes before dinner. He opened up an ice cream parlor and started selling products to restaurants in 1960 as GFD became more well-known in the Northville, Mich., area.”

After a short break for dinner with his own family, John would return to the dairy with his wife, Pat; the pair made ice cream late into the evening. Their 14 children learned the family business early on from making ice cream to bottling milk and working as route jumpers for home delivery service.

In 1984, GFD got its big break when People magazine approached John and wanted the dairy to enter an ice cream contest. “We sent out samples and our butter pecan took fourth place in the nation,” unveils Marty. “We started shipping ice cream across the country and it really helped put us on the map.”

GFD now distributes across southern Michigan to large retailers such as Kroger’s and Meijers, as well as small, independent stores; the second-generation McGuires are keeping the company going strong. “My sisters, Rita Rice and Karen Kinville, do our bookkeeping and there are about 14 to 16 third-generation family members now working here, as well,” reveals Marty.

Sweet Distinction and Value Added Products

Since the dairy’s first prize-winning ice cream flavor in 1984, GFD continues to set the standard for high quality dairy products made from all natural ingredients across the board. In fall 2013, the company entered the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin and after beating out 820 other companies from 28 countries, 43 U.S. states and six other Canadian provinces, GFD claimed first place for the best chocolate milk in the country.

“We took No. 1 for our all natural chocolate milk,” details Marty. “The recognition has generated national attention and we’re getting the pricing and a list of interested contacts together to ship to.”

Not only is GFD winning awards for taste and quality, the company has also expanded into probiotics. “Probiotics have been a thing in Europe forever but they’re slowly taking off in the U.S.,” notes Marty. “We introduced probiotics into a line of milk about three years ago. We all know milk backs calcium to strengthen bones and protein to give us energy, vitamins to keep us feeling healthy, and probiotics offer significant digestive and immune benefits.”

Speaking from firsthand experience, Marty has implemented the probiotic line into his own diet and has seen significant health benefits. “People may think the added probiotics will make the milk taste like yogurt, but that’s not the case,” he describes. “It tastes like normal milk. Our skim and 2 percent probiotic milk taste just like our other lines but have the added good bacteria that supports digestive function and immune system efficiency.”

GDF’s probiotic milk makes a daily dose convenient, especially for families with children. “You can boost your resistance to sickness and improve digestion with every glass, bowl of cereal or milkshake and so on,” notes Marty.

GFD’s probiotic milk is made with GanedenBC30, the first Bacillus strain to receive Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAs) status. Because of its unique composition, GanedenBC30 is able to survive milk manufacturing processes, shelf life and even stomach acids to do the most good in the body. The difference is a naturally occurring layer of organic material that protects the genetic core of the good bacteria. “We’re encouraging new customers and our longstanding customers who already regularly buy our milk to try it and see what it can do for them,” adds Marty.

At the end of the day, anything that benefits the customer is front and center for GFD. “My father founded GFD on a very simple business philosophy: produce good products, maintain good quality and provide superior customer service,” shares Marty. “In an era of corporate farms, we remain family-owned and committed to these values that are in every aspect of our work.”

Guernsey Farms Dairy takes pride in being Michigan-made and family-owned, continuing to deliver the same trusted premium products for more than 74 years.


Strategic Partnership(s): 
Klebba Insurance Agency, Inc.