1. Avalon Dairy's History

    It survived war. It outlasted depressions. It sidestepped meddling politicians, uncompromising bankers, and an unrelenting wave of conglomeration. Its values, and its iconic glass jugs, never changed. Yes, Avalon is a dairy farm, but it’s also a story of overcoming hardship.

    Scroll your way through the story

  2. Jeremiah Crowley

    The Man, The Myth, The Dairy Farmer.

    Though not much bigger than a jockey, Jeremiah Crowley was a larger-than-life ironworker-turned-dairy farmer. Born in 1875, he was seldom found without his pipe and bowler hat. He was the handiest of handymen, fixing anything that broke, and was so frugal he could squeeze the copper out of a penny. Both attributes helped carry Avalon through tough decades and shaped a dairy as proud and independent as the man who founded it.

  3. There’s gold in them thar cows.

    Jeremiah left the comfort of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula to follow the gold rush to the west coast in 1906. While the gold rush had all but dried up, Jeremiah’s purchase of a modest farm with six cows proved to be a different kind of lucrative claim.

  4. Young Englishman

    Jack ELLIS

    milking in the barn at Avalon Ranch Dairy, circa 1912

  5. The Ultimate Crossover Utility Vehicle

    Jeremiah’s 1916 Model T Ford was more than just a set of wheels. It was his delivery wagon, his supply truck, and Avalon’s biggest asset in the early days. Due to his mechanical ingenuity, and perhaps his incredibly frugal nature, he was able to keep it on the road his whole life, and never needed another vehicle.

  6. The do-it-yourselfer’s guide to pasteurization.

    In the 1930s, Jeremiah decided to convert Avalon to pasteurization. But the conversion wasn’t going to be cheap, so in true Jeremiah fashion, he set out to make his own equipment. While the first attempt flopped, Jeremiah tinkered his way to a solution and even built and sold pasteurizers to other dairies.

  7. A timeline of perseverance

    As independent dairies went from hundreds in the 1920s to just one in 1966, Avalon was the last man standing against giant corporate dairies and supermaket chains. This is how they got there:

    1. Jeremiah Crowley follows the gold rush to Vancouver from the Avalon Peninsula. Sadly, the gold rush has passed, so Jeremiah instead buys a small farm that includes six cows. Avalon dairy becomes a Plan B success story.

    2. The depression hits everyone hard, and Jeremiah is forced to mortgage the dairy. That year, Avalon hires Art Stocker as a sole employee for $40/mo. Art’s work ethic helps the dairy through tough times.

    3. Milk prices reach dangerous lows while taxes and cattle feed rise. Jeremiah can no longer pay Art Stocker, who continues to work as a show of gratitude for being hired during the depression. Art eventually has to leave, but returns later on a part-time basis.

    1. Jeremiah is forced to auction most of his cows to pay outstanding bills. The sacrifice allows him to finally pay Art Stocker’s back wages.

    2. The glass is truly half empty, as milk prices fall from a high of 14 cents a quart to 7 cents a quart.

    3. Another crisis year hits Avalon. The mortgage holder threatens forclosure for $2,745 owing while tax officers arrange to sell the Crowley property for back taxes. Fortunately, no willing buyers come forward and Jeremiah keeps the mortgager at bay with occasional payments.

    4. Finally, milk prices rise and allow Avalon to repurchase their dairy from the city with $3,000 loaned by a relative. Avalon was not the only South Vancouver property in tax arrears. Many of the parks in South Vancouver were created out of land sold in tax sales.

    5. Avalon's cows become infected and are put down. The depression’s tight grip leaves Jeremiah no financial means to replace the herd. Rather than quit the dairy business, he buys his milk from farmers and continues Avalon as a dairy, bottling and delivering.

    6. Great Britain, cut off from its usual sources of dairy products during the war, looks to Canada. The Wartime Prices and Trade Board provides subsidies of up to 30 cents per hundredweight for surplus milk, allowing the milk industry to prosper during the war.

    7. With prosperity comes competition from bigger corporate players. Co-op and independent farmers find it hard to compete, with many forced to sell their herds. Avalon competes through efficiency, raising the roof on the dairy building, creating a new office, buying a new surface cooler, a new pasteurizer, two new delivery vans and a homogenizer.

    1. Jeremiah dies, leaving no will. After much discussion, Everett, Harvey and Con, who had been running Avalon, decide against selling. The three brothers incorporate Avalon with their mother holding the principal interest while they hold the balance.

    2. Three years after modernizing, the barn burns down. The roof is entirely burnt off but the old wagons and the horses are saved and the barn is re-built.

    3. The end of an era as the horse and wagon delivery system is retired.

    4. Conglomeration leaves only 27 independent milk distributers in BC, down from 84 just seven years earlier.

    5. Avalon expands its production line to 1% and 2% milk, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, buttermilk and Italian Cheese.

    6. Avalon is the sole remaining independent in British Columbia. And proud of it.

  8. The Glass Bottle That Would Not Break.

    Avalon’s iconic glass bottle has been around since 1915. And it’s a reminder of how far Avalon has come, while staying true to its roots. But the battle to save the bottle hasn’t been easy. The resilient glass bottle survived a switch to metric 1977 and was on the ropes after tax imposed by the provincial government in 1983. Avalon’s customers rallied with 6,000 signatures to remove the tax, and two years later it was back to business as usual.

  9. Her Majesty’s Secret Thirst

    When Queen Elizabeth visits British Columbia, she drinks only Avalon’s standard unhomogenized milk, the kind where the cream still rises to the top. Does that mean when you drink a glass of Avalon milk, you share her royal standards?

    Who are we to say?

  10. A Landmark Moment

    In 1986 Avalon was proud to earn a heritage designation from the City of Vancouver, itself only 20 years older than Avalon.

  11. The Natural Switch To Organic

    Jeremiah Crowley wasn’t the only character in Avalon’s history. Gay Hahn, who had humble beginnings at Avalon answering phones, would later be the catalyst to Avalon’s switch to organic. It started with an inspiring visit to a farmer’s market in 1995. Seeing the potential of organic, and how it fit with Avalon’s values, she found a farmer with a small dairy herd that met organic criteria: cows fed on organic feed produced on pesticide-free land with no antibiotics or hormones entering the picture. So, in 1999, Avalon bought 25 cows and produced 19,000 litres of organic milk that year. Today, Gay Hahn is CEO, helping Avalon produce 500,000 litres of milk a month, 60% of it organic.