An especially sweet collaboration started when the Stensland family went out to dinner in Sioux Falls.

As the owners of Stensland Family Farms dined at Morrie’s Steakhouse, Minervas and Grille 26, “we built a relationship with them being in the restaurants and started exploring what we could do with their products,” Vanguard Hospitality’s director of culinary Joshua Jackson said.

The Stenslands have grown their family operation in Iowa for seven generations; four work in the business today. The focus is on vertical integration, Jason Stensland explained — “raising the crops, running it through the cows, and then we take the milk these cows produce and we’ll run it through the processing plant and make different products.”

You might have purchased the family’s milk, cheese, cheese curds or ice cream in area grocery stores.

But you also increasingly dine on them in Vanguard restaurants, where they’re used in everything from cheese on Minervas salad bar and milk and half-and-half in multiple dishes to signature ice creams and sorbets.

The farm and the restaurants are only about 10 miles apart, and the relationship “supports creating resiliency in our community by joining hands and working together,” Vanguard chief operating officer Tim Meagher said. “It makes coming to work each day more meaningful.”

It also is ensuring operations like Stensland Family Farms will sustain for many generations to come.

“The future for us as a family has been to be able to come up with unique product and partner with local partners,” Doug Stensland said.

Come with us for a closer look at the operation: