Posts filed under 'Animals'

Austin- CKC Farms

Nancy meets her first goatsWe had a magical experience in Austin, Texas last Friday- regardless of the previous night’s stay at the O’Hare Best Western (missed our connection en route to TX). Our friend and Cheese by Hand designer, Nancy Nowacek got to see what it was like to visit a dairy Cheese by Hand style. The visit was even cooler because it was the Chrissy Omo and her family at CKC Goat Dairy in Blanco which is about an hour outside of Austin. Chrissy is currently a college student at Texas State- she juggles that committment with dairy farming by restricting her school schedule to morning classes. This means that she has two distinct mornings during the week- one milking goats at dawn, and a second a few hours later in a classroom at the university.

Austin in located in the region of Texas known as Hill Country. Because it is Texas, and everything is bigger in Texas, the hills there are long and rolling- stretching out as far as the eye can see. The landscape was much greener than expected for September because the area has gotten so much more rain that usual this summer. Driving around in such a vast expanse of space so soon after leaving New York City blew my mind- even the sky appeared to have grown overnight.

Texas hill country

Chrissy got into goats by participating with FFA as a youngster. She raised meat goats and quickly realized that she wanted goats that would stay around longer than those Chrissy admires her goat herdsold off for meat so she switched to dairy goats. As it goes with so many goat enthusiasts there is a sudden rush of milk at some point and the next logical step is to make cheese. This is exactly what Chrissy did. CKC is currently milking 16 goats but the total herd is up to 87, including a couple billy goats for breeding. They are bred rotationally so that the dairy has a year-round milk supply. The total acreage on the farm is almost 70 and there is plenty of pasture and brambly stuff for the goats to get most of their diet from forage with a minimal supplement of grain.

No premium on space in TexasThe whole family pitches in to support the CKC business. When we stopped by Chrissy’s father was busy painting the tasting room area that had just been completed. One of their local food heroes, Sibby Barrett is bringing a group of her culinary students out to the farm next weekend as part of her “Random Acts of Cooking” courses where the students visit a number of local farms and producers to gather the goods for their cooking lesson. You can read about Sibby’s local, culinary courses here.

CKC produces a wide variety of goat’s milk cheeses- spreads, small disks reminiscent of the French classic selles sur cher, marinated feta, a blue cheese, and soon to come some natural rinded tommes. Their cheese production room is simple and spacious- with ample room to increase volume. They sell their output at a farmer’s market nearby in San Antonio and to a number of small food purveyors local to them and also a number in the Austin area.

We sat around the table with Chrissy, her mother, and her two younger brothers to taste some cheese and hear about the time they spent in Europe together as a family- this is where their love affair with handcrafted cheeses began. Their cheeses are delicious- on par with many American goat’s milk products let alone European imports. I look forward to re-visiting Austin and sampling the aged cheeses as they roll out.

It was a fantastic afternoon. The entire family just could not have been any nicer or more welcoming. We were there for a little over an hour and I think we laughed (hard) more than ten times- always a solid indicator of good company. They enjoy what they do, working hard and making sure to have a good time while doing it. When we got back into the car nancy asked if that visit was representative of what we’d done on our tour last summer. I replied with a resounding “Absolutely!” while Michael said wistfully, “Man, that was a great summer.”

Michael and the la mancha

Add comment September 11th, 2007

Lost lambs

I go to the farmer’s market here in New York City’s Union Square a couple times a week. Wednesdays are the best because it isn’t as crowded as Saturday and some of my favorite vendors are there: Tamarack Hollow Farm (selling pigs and chickens) and Three Corner Field Farm (selling all things sheep- mutton, lamb, yogurt, cheese and milk). Not only are their products excellent but I almost always walk away from their stands having learned something about farming or about their experiences.

It is one thing to think about farming conceptually- farmers work the land, care for the animals, then they bring them to a central location and we pay them for their work- and quite another to consider what the farmer’s day is actually like. I know that since returning from our tour, and watching the temperature drop (finally) over the last couple weeks, when I walk out my front door and that first gust of wind blows through my jacket into my bones I often think about the farmer who got up earlier than I did and went to work outside. They aren’t the only ones who do this… cops, construction workers, garbage men, landscapers- all of them are up and outside too it’s just that I’ve had farming on my mind.

A couple weeks ago, on a particularly frigid Wednesday, I stopped by to see Karen Weinberg (owner of 3 Corner Field Farm) and shortly after I arrived she got a phone call that she absolutley had to take. I hung around her stand to field questions from customers while she paced in the patch of sunshine between her stand and the neighboring apple booth. As soon as she was on hold she explained that she had been waiting for this call for months- it was from the USDA.

The basics of the situation Karen was discussing with the USDA are this: Months ago there had been a problem at one of the slaughterhouses Karen uses for her lambs. Meat from another farmer had been tagged as potentially contaminated and the USDA had done an investigation. No conclusive evidence of actual contamination was found but the USDA put an indefinite hold on the any meat that was in the slaughterhouse during the time that the allegedly contaminated meat was there. Indefinite holds and perishable products don’t go together so well.

Karen had taken fifteen lambs to the slaughterhouse, watched them go in the front door and then never saw any trace of them after that.

The slaughterhouse wants her to take it up with the USDA because they had imposed this unending hold on the products and the USDA wants her to hold the slaughterhouse accountable because they had been in possession of the product at the time it disappeard.

Karen broke down what losing these lambs meant for her in financial terms- which is not insignificant. Retail pricing on the various cuts of lamb that she sells range from $9-15.50/lb. I looked at her and immediately thought of the emotional value of the animals. I remembered what she said to me this summer (we visited her this summer on the tour) when I asked her about the first time she took animals to slaughter. She said that the first time had been so chaotic- she was so worried about them escaping or something that she had not been able to be completely present to what was going on… and then she said that over time, as she felt more confident about how to transport them, taking the animals to slaughter had actually gotten harder.

And then I thought about all the time and care she had put into those lambs to then have to think that they were slaughtered and wasted. Not sold, cooked, eaten, and celebrated but wasted.

Here is the thing about this entire situation- most of us, even meat eaters, don’t like the idea of animals going to slaughter. And yet the reality of cheese is that one of its byproducts is young animals that are born for the purpose of kicking off the cycle of lactation in their mothers. Dairy farmers cannot afford to keep all of these young animals and let them live out their years on the farm. If they do keep them around, like Karen does, many of them have to be raised for meat because only a handful of the females are needed each season as replacements for milking ewes that are being retired.

Just for a minute lets put all the feelings we have about this situation aside and look at the slaughterhouse situation for non-industrial dairy farmers. If a dairy farmer wants to be able to sell meat from their animals in cuts (not as whole animals- the rules are different for this) then they have to have them slaughtered at a USDA regulated facility. Doesn’t sound so bad except that these facilities are more expensive and not necessarily the closest facilities to a given farm. The end result can be that the farmer pays more, might have to transport their animals farther (which creates more stress for the animals), and can have a difficult time finding such a facility that is willing to take a small volume of animals at a time.

Karen is left wondering why she paid more for this facility when the USDA doesn’t seem to be offering an incredible level of service to either the slaughterhouse or its customers.

Small slaughterhouses are going out of business all over the country because they cannot afford to build new facilities or upgrade existing ones to meet federal standards that have been developed with industrial animal processing plants in mind. This is a major problem for farmstead artisan cheesemakers or any other small dairy farms. Part of maintaining a network of sustainable agriculture and cheese production is ensuring the existence of regional slaughterhouses to support it. We absolutely want the animals from these farms to have the best possible experience throughout their lives- even at the end.

If you care about preserving small farms, the existence of these slaughterhouses (with acceptable sanitation and animal treatment practices) is mandatory. If you enjoy cheese, milk, butter and yogurt from these farms- even if you never eat the meat- this is still an issue you that needs your involvement. I don’t know how to fix this problem but I bet that a great next stop would be to talk to the farmers that provide you with great animal products (this includes dairy) and ask them if they need your support.

2 comments January 31st, 2007

Cato Corner Farm

Cow friends Name: Cato Corner Farm
Owners: Elizabeth McAllister and Mark Gillman
Location: Colchester, CT
Animals: Milking 18-25 Jersey cows
Cheeses/Products: Dutch Farmstead, Hooligan, Brigid’s Abbey, Black Ledge Blue, Bloomsday, Vivace, Vivace Bambino, Womanchego. These are their most regularly produced cheeses- to see the list of seasonal or less frequently made cheeses check their website.
More info: www.catocornerfarm.com

Elizabeth began farming in the late 70’s when she bought the land that Cato Corner Farm stands on today. She started out raising sheep and goats for meat. This was a largely seasonal business cycle- the animals were born, raised and then slaughtered in the spring and summer. Seasonal is not ideal economically and unfortunately it doesn’t mean that once your season is over you get to take the rest of the year off as there are always things to be done on the farm and the ewes, does, rams and bucks have to be fed throughout the winter. So after a decade of producing meat Elizabeth began thinking about other ways of farming. In the early days she was working with 150 sheep and 40 some odd goats who produced lamb and kids each year. She talked to us about her meat farming days while she was waiting for their vet to show up to do some routine checks on their herd. A neighbor who has goats pulled into the drive to wait for the vet as well and Elizabeth couldn’t resist asking them to tell Mark (who was at the hardware store when everyone arrived) that these were goats that Elizabeth had bought for them to begin milking. None of us could hold a straight face longer than about 20 seconds when Mark showed up and restrained from freaking out about the goat kids in their driveway.

Cato Corner Cheese House

After this introduction Mark took us on a tour of all the cheese areas. It is very common on our visits for us to go through all the cheese areas before taking a step out into the field with the animals- simply for sanitation reasons. Mark started us out in the cheesemaking room- a space that seemed small when I thought about the volumes of cheese Cato sells at NYC Greenmarkets and various regional retailers. But clearly it is getting the job done. Mark and his cheese crew are making cheese four days a week now (up from 3) and batches are typically around 1250 lbs of milk. Its not that the cheesemaking and maturing rooms are shiny and new but they are satisfyingly clean and organized. Maybe I was preparing myself for the return to New York sized spaces but there was a certain efficiency to both the make and maturing rooms. The cellar was fascinating to me because it is one large room that holds all of the styles they produce from rough-edged tommes to washed rinds and blues. There is enough space to separate cheese types “geographically” if you will but they are still all sharing the same air. You can imagine that with the range of cheeses the aroma in the cellar is complex- the heavy air reminds you of milk and a damp basement at the same time.

Bloomsday shelves in caves

Although Mark grew up on this farm, he didn’t stay here all the way through the evolution from meat to cheesemaking. Elizabeth was manning the meat production when she found out about a value-add incentive program being offered by the state of Connecticut and she sought more information. Interested by what she had heard, began the transition from meat to milk producer in the mid-90’s. She sold her livestock, purchased cows, and invested some capital to add on a cheesemaking room, an aging and cold storage area, and an updated milk parlor. Her cheesemaking officially began in 1997. The switch to cows was both for personal taste reasons (she isn’t wild about some varieties of goat cheeses) and for the versatility of cow milk. The decision to make raw milk cheeses was an easy one for Elizabeth because she grew up eating fine cheeses- her father was a food enthusiast with a passion for cheese- many of them raw. You can see the influence of her cheese-infused childhood in the variety she chose to produce. The in-ground cellar that we toured with Mark was an expansion they did a few years ago as their production and variety increased beyond what they could do in the small space allocated for maturing upstairs. The former “cave” upstairs now serves as greenmarket cold storage- it is lined with the standard, gigantic coolers that many producers to haul their goods to market.

Mark down in the cellarElizabeth basically ran the farm on her own for a few years; she moved the cows around in their 40 acres of pasture, milked, made and aged the cheeses. Meanwhile Mark was working as a schoolteacher across the country. He found that his interest in farming was increasing and that although he enjoyed teaching he was feeling a pull to return home and reacquaint himself with the land he knew as a boy. It was 1999 when Mark came home and partnered with Elizabeth in her ambitious operation. Through a series of events, Mark and Elizabeth’s roles on the farm became more defined. Mark had a natural interest in the cheesemaking and gradually began spending more of his time on that than out with the animals. Elizabeth focused her energy on the herd.

A couple years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Elizabeth speak at an event in New York and the one thing I distinctly remember her saying was, “we make the cheese because it allows us to keep the cows.” I know for a fact that, although she is a big fan of her cows, she also enjoys making and eating Cato Corner cheeses. Their operation illustrates the miracle of cheesemaking- through the same basic process milk can be transformed into so many different tastes and textures. Beyond their cheeses, something I appreciated about Mark and Elizabeth was the bold moves they each made to get to their current positions. Elizabeth took her farm in a totally new and yet sustainable direction and Mark allowed himself to follow his gut which was pulling him back to the farm. Their farm feels like family- the good part of family that his close enough to make you feel comfortable and still loose enough to give you room to grow.

Elizabeth walking cows in for milking

I’m looking forward to stinking up my tiny New York city apartment refrigerator with a wedge of Hooligan.

1 comment October 5th, 2006

Spinach, Cows, and Corn

*Cheese People*
There was an excellent opinion piece by Nina Planck in the NY Times last week about the e. coli 0157 outbreak caused by contaminated spinach. What does this have to do with cheese? It is related to cheese in that Ms. Planck makes a connection between the spinach problem and the current commercial dairy and feedlot situation. I thought the piece did a fantastic job at outlining some of the serious issues happening in agriculture and the importance of understanding the root cause of an outbreak like this.

I do feel like a little extra information would arm consumers with a more complete picture about the use of grain on dairy farms. Every dairy except one that we visited this summer feeds their herds some percentage of their diet in grain. Because I wanted to have my facts straight before I started blabbing on the blog, I emailed one of the herdsmen I interviewed this summer with my questions about cows and grain and he sent back a response that I found incredibly useful. Below is a link to the NY Times piece and also the information I received from Andy Kehler at Jasper Hill Farm where they milk 35-40 cows.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/21/opinion/21planck.html?th&emc=th

Andy Kehler’s email to me:

“While Nina’s piece about ecoli and its connection to the dairy and beef industry was informative, I believe that there is crucial distinction that needs to be made. As a dairy farmer that does feed grain, I was disturbed that I am being lumped into a category of farming where I don’t feel that I belong. There was no distinction made between herds that are fed grain as a supplement to balance a ration and herds where the majority of their diet is grain based. Nina says turn your attention to the dairy and beef industry,but I believe the culprit is actually corn. It wasn’t until farms started feeding large ammounts of corn that 0157 started becoming a problem. It is cheap and easy to grow and the government will pay you to grow it. You have to feed enough corn to create ruminal acidosis in the animal- the ph in the rumen drops creating an environment where 0157 can can exist- this also leads to laminitis (where layers of the hoof start separating) and other metabolic problems in dairy cows.

Dairy cows have been bred over the last 100 years to produce more and more milk. They have gotten farther and farther away from their “natural state” where they could calve in the wild and forage. Most dairy cows can’t consume enough grass to meet the energy demands that their bodies require after they calve. This is when they are under the most stress- recouperating from calving, growing if it is their first or second calf and producing the milk that they are genetically predisposed to make. As a dairy farmer I feel that it is my responsibility to formulate a healthy ration for my herd and I believe that grain is a very important part of a healthy diet. As a farm we are lucky that we have been able to get away from pressures that fluid milk producers have, and can put the health of my cows and the quality of my milk at the forefront of what we do. I also have a herd where I can treat each cow as an individual and adjust each cows diet on a daily basis. This is impossible do on a large dairy.

The real problem here is that as a society we have made the choice that cheap food is more important than food safety. If we look where agricultural subsidies go, most of them go to the production of corn. In order to take advantage of these a farm must be of a certain size, for handling corn takes a lot more equipment. It is hard to justify the investment in equipment if you are milking less than 80 to 100 cows. Nina is asking us to look at the culprits- dairy and beef farmers. Comercial dairies need to squeeze as much milk out of each cow as possible in order to remain competitive. What ends up happening is they are trying to get as close to ruminal acidosis as possible- feed them as many calories as possible, without crossing that line where the rumen becomes too acidic. The industry creates a scenario in which a farmer has to push their cows as much as possible to produce more milk per animal.

There are around 3000 large farms in the U.S. There are tens of thousands of small family farms that are really struggling right now to stay alive because as a society we have chosen to ecourage and subsidize cheap milk and cheap beef. This is why this distinction is so important. I applaud Nina for shedding light on this issue, for I do feel that there is a serious threat to food safety here. I do, however, think the issue is more complex than she alludes and that the last thing that our small family farms need is to be blamed for making people sick.”

1 comment October 3rd, 2006

3 Corner Field Farm

Lambs out browsingName: 3 Corner Field Farm
Owners: Karen Weinberg and Paul Borghard
Location: Shushan, NY
Animals: Milking 120 ewes and raising hundreds of lambs each year for meat and some for replacement milkers.
Cheeses/Products: Brebis Blanc, Shushan Snow, Feta, Ricotta, milk, yogurt, grass-fed lamb meat, sheep skins
More info: www.dairysheepfarm.com

Karen Weinberg has always known that she wanted to be a farmer. She didn’t grow up on a farm, she didn’t spend time working on a farm- yet somehow she just knew that farming was in the cards for her. Being the ambitious woman that she is she lobbied hard for her dream with her husband Paul and yet she was humble enough to take his coaching. He explained to her that in order to be a successful farmer she needed to have capital and an education. Once she had her PhD, her first baby , and the couple owned a small apartment in Brooklyn they began looking for farmland in New York state.

They settled on the farm they own now after renovating and selling another property in Washington County. Shortly after purchasing their farm Paul took advantage of an offer to work in Paris and they moved to France with their two young daughters. During their years in France Karen fell in love with cheese and began to dream about making cheese herself someday. When they returned to New York she hit the ground running to transform their property into a sheep dairy; rennovating existing farm structures and evaluating the pastures. Their initial plan was to milk sheep and sell all of the milk wholesale, they had an outlet for this nearby- Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. This plan got them started milking sheep and eventually they transitioned to making yogurt and cheese on their own. In recent years they expanded their offering by raising their annual crop of lambs on pasture to add meat to their list of products.

3 Corner Field Farm is approximately 100 acres with about 40 acres of grazable pasture. Karen has worked with neighbors over the past 5 years to expand their grazing land to 120 acres through leases. Many people in their community were doubtful when they began, they said that running sheep on the land would destroy the pastures (this is the reputation of sheep). 3 Corner’s pastures are luscious, verdant- teeming with variety and life. Karen explained that after a couple seasons neighbors noticed the transformation in the pastures that had been grazed by the sheep and began to approach her to offer up their fields for grazing.

Karen with lambs

As we strolled around the farm before dinner, Karen talked about he meat side of her operation. All 3 Corner lambs get milk from their mothers for a few weeks and then they are transitioned carefully onto pasture. Lambing is the only part of the year when the animals (ewes and lambs) spend time in the barn. Male and female lambs are separated and rotated through different pastures- each of these paddocks is protected by a guard dog. Beginning in September, groups of lambs are selected (by size) every few weeks to go to slaughter. Either Karen or Paul drives the lambs to the meat processor (who has been carefully selected)- they do this in large part because they are committed to knowing that their animals are handled well throughout their entire lives, right through to the end.

Sheep at 3 Corner Field Farm are out on pasture their entire lives except when they are first born and then when they give birth. During the winter months their long coats protect them from the cold and the frozen ground provides them with a dry and solid surface which is good for their hooves. Bales of feed are strewn about in different sections of the pastures so that the sheep’s manure is spread across the land and not overly concentrated in one area. The pastures are hayed periodically throughout the growing season, in between the times they are grazed by the ewes. There is a great, detailed explanation of the cyclical/seasonal progression of the ewes and the farm on the 3 Corner website.

Ewes lining up for milking. Paul milking

The next morning we headed out to the milking parlor. Paul is the designated milker and is enjoying the arrival of fall because it means they have recently dropped to one milking per day. When the sheep come through the parlor they get a bit of grain to supplement the forage which makes up most of their diet. We were visiting the farm during a damp weather spell so while Paul milked he was also closely examining the ewes’ feet for soft spots. This is something that happens to their hooves when they don’t dry out completely- little irritated spots crop up in the crevices of their hooves. It is something he can treat quite easily when the ewes are all in the stanchion.

After milking the ewes are walked out to pasture; they are put on a new section every day. We followed them with Karen and their trusty sheep dog Sweep. The pasture was amazing- the alfalfa was at least knee high and there were numerous other species growing up around it. While we watched the sheep wade into the green that touched their bellies Karen debunked myths about sheep destroying pasture. She explained that sheep love the most tender parts of the plants they eat evidenced by the previous day’s pasture where we could see that all that remained were stalky, woody shoots of grasses and legumes. Sheep who are turned out on meager pastures will get close down to the earth and nip at the tender, fresh beginnings of grass thus their reputation as pasture ruiners. Like any other ruminant sheep will overgraze an area if they are not managed properly and given enough pasture to eat.

Blue sky and good eating for the milking ewes

In the afternoon we made Feta. Karen takes immense pleasure in the cheesemaking part of her day. Often she makes on her own although these days she gets some help from her eldest daughter Emily. Her vat is small and she does everything completely by hand includingKaren making cheese cutting the curd with a knife and stirring it for about 20 minutes with her hands and arms. She likes the direct, tactile interaction with the curd and feels it has helped her learn more quickly because she is working with all of her senses.

3 Corner Field Farm is made up of four small businesses: a sheep dairy (not to mention a haying operation- they put up a lot of their own feed for winter), a creamery, pastured-lamb production, and also sheep skin processing. The latter two bring in additional income and they honor the tradition of respecting the animals in that the farm provides them with the best life possible and then does not waste any parts of the animals once they are slaughtered.

During our trip I’ve thought a great deal about the lack of connection in the way that we think about dairy products and the animals it takes to produce them. There is not much to remind us of that connection in our day to day lives and at 3 Corner Field Farm the connection is completely visible. This farm reminded me to be thankful to the sheep for providing us with food and also to be thankful that people like Karen Weinberg and her farmily become farmers.

Knee deep in alfalfa

Add comment September 30th, 2006

Willow Hill Farm… ever-evolving

Name: Willow Hill FarmChewing ewe in the solar barn
Owners: David Phinney and Willow Smart
Location: Milton, Vermont
Animals
: 80-90 sheep (plus 80+ lambs) East Friesian and Icelandic Friesian crosses, 6 cows Dutch Belted and Brown Swiss
Cheeses/Products: Sheep milk yogurt, Alderbrook, Autumn Oak, Blue Moon, Cobble Hill, Fernwood, La Fleurie, Mountain Tomme, Summertomme, Vermont Brebis, whole grass-fed lamb, wool blankets
More Info
: www.sheepcheese.com

David and Willow have truly rolled with the changes since they purchased their land in the early 90’s. Beginning as an in-ground fruits and vegetable crop operation, they now have their feet firmly planted in the shepherding and cheesemaking business. A few vestiges of their old life remain- the single rectangular plot of Christmas trees now serving as a windbreak for pastures, the last of the beef cattle that will go this year, and even a couple retired chicken coops remain near the barn. Some pieces of these earlier businesses have been consistent: they have a booming, seasonal business with their organic blueberries and currants which they open up each summer for people to pick on their own and also sell at local farmer’s markets.

The big thing happening these days at Willow Hill Farm is the final construction on their new production facility. David and Willow took us on a tour of the new facility as well as the old to give us a sense of the main goal for the new building: increased efficiency. They will absolutely achieve this and they will continue to work their tails off. David will be milking a minimum of 80 sheep and at least 5 cows while Willow will crank out over 15,000 pounds of cheese (she supplements her sheep’s milk with milk from Bonnieview Farm). Oh, and let’s not forget that David is also producing the delectable sheep’s milk yogurt and that Willow has to age, package, and take her cheeses and their organic blueberries and currants to market each week. Think about this for twenty seconds and you can understand why these two would strive for efficiency.

We were fortunate to visit post-lambing yet pre-milking (unlike cows and goats, sheep aren’t weaned from their mother’s milk for 30 days or so). The milking and cheesemaking will begin later than usual this year In the solar barnbecause of the new production facility construction. The production facility is built on tiered levels, like steps, to allow the milk to be brought into the make room using gravity feed rather than pumps. Along the side of the make room are large windows to allow visitors to see the process and after the cheese is made, aging and brining rooms are the final stop before shipping. To get some relaxed moments with a shepherd or cheesemaker is a rare privilege- our visit with Willow and David was like a goldmine. After arriving and taking a tour of the new make room being constructed, we hovered over them as they did chores around the solar ban used for lambing season. The next morning we followed them around for chores again, watching as David tagged some lambs born only days ago. Then we went to see the old cheese production facility and meet the cows in the original barn.

One thing that stuck with us after spending two days with them was the level of commitment to their farm’s philosophy- it is truly inspiring. Regardless of the additional work (and sometimes cost) associated with the tenets they believe in, they do things the way they believe they should be done. David and Willow are believers in the true roots of the organic movement- meaning sustainable land management. They follow organic practices in their pastures and continue to feed their animals organic grain even though they recently de-certified their cheeses because they are supplementing their cow milk with milk from a neighboring dairy that is not organic. They could have asked their neighbor to convert to organic, or they could have searched for an organic milk source outside of their local area. It was too much, in their minds, to ask another farmer to convert to their philosophy and yet, remaining true to their own beliefs they continue with organic practices on their farm.

Mom and lambsAnimal comfort is also a high priority on the farm. When David explains why he doesn’t dock tails on his sheep, you can see that he considers the experience of the animal, the tail is the only defense that the animals have against biting black and horse flies that are around all summer long while they are on pasture. He didn’t have any assistants until recent years and when he mentions that he didn’t have a day off from milking for 8 years there is no bitterness in the statement, in his mind I think he just sees it as what has to be done for the animals and their operation.

Proper care for the animals and the land results in clean milk with wonderful nuances in flavor and this makes beautiful cheese. Willow will continue to produce both pasteurized, soft-ripened cheeses that are aged for only a couple weeks and also raw milk cheeses held for 60 days or more. She is cautious about her excitement for working in the new facility, as she knows, from years of experience, that any small change can impact the finished product.
We have total confidence that she will rock these changes as she and David have all the ones that have come before.

If last season’s Fernwood (raw cow’s milk, washed rind) is any indication of what is to come we are SO looking forward to late June when the farm’s first cheeses will be available.

1 comment May 11th, 2006


Calendar

December 2014
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Posts by Month

Posts by Category