The Dairy & Beyond
We are striving to create a multi-faceted farming operation with cows, dairy and cheesemaking at the center of what we do. Everything else builds from there. Our perfect herd size seems to be milking about 25 to 30 cows. When we bought the farm and the herd from the Harmon’s it was comprised of Full Jersey’s, Full Holsteins, crosses of those two as well as a little Norwegian Red and Geurnsey mixed in. Since then we have added in high cheese merit genetics on the Jersey and Holstein side as well as brought in some Ayreshire and Mont Beliarde into the herd to breed our “perfect cow”. That cow is a vigorous animal that produces high-component milk for cheesemaking, is suited to a living a life outside on green grass, walking up and down hills, smaller profile, solidly built and able to maintain body condition on a primarily grass based diet.
At the end of 2019 we switched to a seasonal dairy model. We dried up the herd in late December and everyone took a break until calving began in mid-February. This approach allows us to walk in better step with the natural rhythm of the seasons, gives us all (cows and humans alike) a little coordinated break, and allows time for us to do much needed maintenance and repairs outside of the demands of twice a day milking. It is the way many small family dairy farms operated before they were pressured to get larger, milk more cows, and financially incentivized to milk year round by the milk cooperatives. We don’t sell to milk cooperatives so we don’t need to succumb to that pressure. We can be seasonal and small because we use all the milk from our cows to make cheese right here on the farm and sell almost all of that cheese directly to our customers. Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.
We added hard apple cider making in 2020 and feed the spent apples back to the cows. They love it. In 2021, we added pickles and preserve production to our rotation and added a demonstration garden for visitors to enjoy. This year we are focusing on developing our composting program and refining our rotational grazing. We are starting to configure our pastures so we can move cows to fresh pasture as often as possible and more intensively manage the grass stands that we have. We also hope to add a small hog operation to utilize the whey and any waste from the creamery and keep all our bull calves and raise them up on the farm for grass fed beef. We will plant several fields in annual crops for soil improvement, rotational grazing and agritourism options like a pumpkin patch and sunflower fields. Our to-do list never gets any shorter!
As we grow and evolve we don’t want to become a larger and larger dairy producer, we want to build a diverse and sustainable farming operation and bring people on the farm to enjoy, learn and experience what we are doing. We want to become experts at grass and soil management (we have a lot to learn!) and continue to build on the healthy foundation of the farm. This will take time but as we develop new business channels we want them to connect with existing ones to create a full circle and balanced approach. We look forward to having people visit us at both locations and become connected personally to our mission and be a part of it as we grow.