S.F. Bay Area’s Nancy’s Yogurt, Wonderful Products, Incredible Friends

So many wonderful stories emanate from the city by the bay.

Huey Lewis and the News is one of the greatest pop bands to come out of San Francisco.

They had a run of hit singles during the 1980s and early 1990s, eventually achieving 19 top ten singles across the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and Mainstream Rock charts.

Along with their videos being featured on MTV, their albums catapulted the group to worldwide fame.

The group have a connection to a fascinating feel good company that makes popular organic yogurt. Read on. You’ll see the unusual and memorable connection soon.

Half the battle in life is the ability to wake up and smell the coffee.

Half the battle in health is the ability to wake up and eat the yogurt while you smell the coffee.

Yogurt goes well with so many combinations of fruits, nuts and honey that for those of us who enjoy it, the healthy creations are endless.

Gabby Douglas is an American artistic gymnast. She is the 2012 Olympic all-around champion and the 2015 World all-around silver medalist. She was once quoted as expressing, “The one snack I really love is YoCrunch yogurt. It's like an apple pie in a cup! You have your apples on the bottom, your yogurt in the middle, and piecrust crumbs on top.”

No doubt many of us have our favorite yogurt recipes and stories. One yogurt manufacturer who really stands out with a unique story and an outstanding world famous story teller in their family line is Nancy’s Yogurt, a signature brand made by the Springfield Creamery.

Their yogurt and kefir products are virtually always highly regarded on any rankings list.

You should meet them. writer, Facebook photo credit

Here is what had to say about them, “Long before the natural foods movement went mainstream, Springfield Creamery found its niche there, with its signature brand, Nancy’s Yogurt, made with milk from local dairies, fruit from nearby farms, and natural sweeteners. The family-run company, with roots deep in 1960s counterculture, sells nationwide today. Annual sales exceeded $20 million in 2010.”

Co-owner Chuck Kesey grew up in the milk business. His father, Fred, managed the Eugene Farmers Creamery and put Chuck and his brother, celebrated author Ken Kesey, to work there.

For those of us who have seen many moons, we loved the prolific author Ken Kesey’s work.

Mr. Kesey (September 17, 1935 – November 10, 2001), was an American novelist, essayist, and countercultural figure. He considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s.

The book that was made into a movie that most of us know him for is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Jack Nicholson.

Not considered counter culture now, it’s not surprising that Ken came from a family that thinks outside of the milk box.

Speaking of those counter culture connections, research indicates in 1972, when the company was struggling, Ken’s brother Chuck Kesey asked his friends in the legendary Grateful Dead band if they would play a benefit concert.

Hand-drawn posters advertised the event for $3 in advance or $3.50 at the gate. The creamery turned Nancy’s Honey Yogurt labels into concert tickets.

On August 27, more than 20,000 free-spirited Deadheads rocked the sweltering afternoon away in Veneta, west of Eugene. The creamery raised from $12,000 to $13,000, enough to stay in business.

With this wonderful family, the stories keep coming.

“I just got tired of being overweight and unfit, so I changed my diet from hamburgers to yogurt and muesli, and it seems to work.”… Peter Jackson

Please put on your sandals and walk with us as we knock at their door. They are very friendly. At they share, “Our family has always moved to its own beat. Curious and creative with an independent streak to match, we love bringing people together—around good friends, great music, and local food.

So it’s no wonder three generations of Keseys have made this our lives’ mission. After nearly 60 years, there are bound to be some great stories to tell.”

Yes, they certainly do. We want to hear more.

They continue, “Fresh out of college and newly wed, Chuck and Sue Kesey opened Springfield Creamery near their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Chuck majored in dairy science at Oregon State University and had always been a creamery kid (his father, Fred, was longtime manager of the Eugene Farmers Creamery). Sue’s degree in secretarial sciences meant she’d studied everything it took to handle the numbers, from accounting to planning to economics.

Nancy Van Brasch Hamren had been making yogurt at home in San Francisco for years before moving to Springfield to join the Creamery as its bookkeeper. Her grandmother’s traditional recipes were simple, time-tested, and natural—just the type of food more of the Kesey’s own family and neighbors were turning toward. Nancy shared her technique, and Chuck had one more ingredient in mind: A relatively unknown, hardly pronounceable, microscopic bacteria that’d soon help put Springfield Creamery—and its bookkeeper—on the map.

When Chuck, Sue, and Nancy sold that first jar of honey-sweetened yogurt, it might not have felt historic. But with Chuck’s addition of “Acidophilus”—the beneficial bacteria he’d been fascinated by while studying dairy science in school—Nancy’s became the first yogurt sold in the United States to contain live probiotics.” writer, photo credit

So how do they do it? They are willing to share and share. “And it all starts simply, with fresh milk and live cultures.

We pasteurize our fresh milk first—ensuring the live cultures are alive and ready to do their job. We then carefully nurture the beneficial bacteria, creating the perfect environment for them to grow, thrive, and multiply to the optimal levels for your good health.

The live cultures consume the milk’s naturally occurring lactose (or milk sugar), which transforms the fluid milk into Nancy’s signature richness.

The magic of live cultures means we never use thickeners or gelatins—our cultures do the work! That’s what we mean when we say fully cultured.”

Okay you guys, Take a breath. We can see that you are mesmerized by their story as much as we are.

Guess what? There is more music lore connected to their rise to healthy eating greatness. Let’s keep going.

They add, “Word about Nancy’s Yogurt began spreading outside of Oregon, and Springfield Creamery yet again crossed paths with music lore. Soon-to-be rock star Huey Lewis became one of Nancy’s first distributors in the San Francisco market, driving ice-packed U-Hauls between Oregon and the Bay Area just a few years before he and The News were stringing together pop hits. Rumor has it, Huey wrote Workin’ for a Livin’ on the road with a van full of Nancy’s Yogurt in his rearview!”

Wow, impressive. We always loved the 1980’s iconic rock band, Huey Lewis and the News.

Nancy’s would eventually begin distributing to all 50 states and satisfied customers all around the country are so glad that they did.

The company has always appreciated their customers and showed it. They share, “Springfield Creamery marked its 50th Anniversary, and there’s no better way to celebrate such an occasion than with great friends, food, and music. As a “thank you” to the community that made it all possible, the Kesey family held a free outdoor concert with the Eugene Symphony at Cuthbert Amphitheater.”

The Grateful Dead and Huey Lewis and the boys would sure be proud.

Speaking of their customers, here are a couple of reviews:

“After trying many good organic yogurts I found Nancy's, it is the best! I am so happy that my local Wegman's store carries it! I am sad when they run out because nothing really compares in my book. I like the consistency of the organic whole milk plain yogurt.”

Here is one more.

“Love Nancy's! I grew up on Nancy's yogurt and kefir, so nothing else tastes quite as good to me after 30 plus years. Thank you continuing to make your great products!”

Life continues to move on. We can’t stop it or slow it down (we have tried the latter) but change and transition is inevitable.

Their story and transition continues, “After 44 wonderful years, Nancy retired—though some might call it “semi-retirement” at best! Our longtime bookkeeper, friend, and brand namesake still serves on the board of the International Probiotics Association and continues to work on special projects with Springfield Creamery. We feel lucky to still have her around the office now and then, and we can never thank Nancy enough for the influence, dedication, and friendship she’s given our family—her journey has been truly remarkable!”

It is so wonderful to hear a story about families, friends and a community that works so well together. The Kesey’s story is truly moving and inspiring.

Today with the help of nearly 60 dedicated employees, Springfield Creamery makes 100+ cultured dairy and soy products.

The family and company are also mindful of the larger issues and causes reflecting society. At their Facebook they inspire. “Happy International Women’s Day from your friends at Nancy’s! We’re so honored to have so many strong and brilliant women on our team, that work to bring you your Nancy's each day- and of course, Wanda the little office dog is always doing her part as well.”

A picture certainly says a thousand words. writer, photo credit

Words can’t say enough about how the Kesey family has helped so many people eat healthier, enjoy friendships, come together as a community and have a positive influence on others.

In this short life, that is more than half the battle.

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