We have some exciting news to share. Our farm is one of a number of Organic Valley New England farms that provides milk to Stonyfield Farm for their yogurt. Right now Stonyfield is running a contest that highlights six farm finalists who are presenting proposals for increasing sustainability on farm. We are one of those finalists hoping to get some updated seed cleaning equipment for our grain operation. If you’re interested, we invite you to check out Stonyfield Farm’s Facebook page where you have a chance to look at all the proposals and vote for your favorite. Best wishes for a good winter! http://www.facebook.com/stonyfieldfarm
The weather is cooling rapidly and daylight fades by dinnertime this time of the year. On the farm we are working on finishing work in preparation for the winter ahead. Haying is complete. Brent is spreading the last of the composted manure on the fields, firewood is getting stacked in the basement for our winter heating needs and the cows are enjoying their last few weeks of grazing for the year. This season is always bittersweet. The colors are beautiful and we are glad that the hectic pace of summer work is behind us. However, we also know that many months of snow and cold are ahead before we get to grazing season again. One of the interesting parts of farming is watching and experiencing the change of seasons and the varied work that accompanies each one.
Kinari Webb, M.D. (Erick Danzer photo)
Although much of our focus is here on our farm there are several organizations in which we’re involved and one in particular that is close to our hearts. Health in Harmony was started by a friend of ours, Kinari Webb, to affect positive change on Borneo. Kinari is a doctor and Health in Harmony works to provide medical care to the villages that surround Gunung Palung National Park on Borneo while at the same time working on protective measures for the rainforest contained within the park. Since it’s inception in 2007 the clinic established by Health in Harmony has seen over 18,000 patients. Health care is affordably priced and can be paid for in a number of ways in addition to cash. These include woven mats, animal manure for the organic garden or helping at the clinic, plant nursery or organic garden. Villages who stop illegal logging have additional resources available to them like organic farm training and mosquito nets. It’s an amazing effort and we invite anyone reading this post to check out the website: www.healthinharmony.org. The next step is building a hospital and fundraising is getting under way. It’s a great way to feel like you’re positively affecting the planet and the people who live on Borneo.
Lest anyone think that all we’re about is grain growing and haying we should talk a bit about the dairy part of our operation. We purchased our farm in 1998 as a working dairy farm and started immediately to transition to organic production. We consider it serendipity that when we finished our transition in the spring of 2000, Organic Valley was looking to start a pool of farmers here in Vermont. We were among the first handful of farmers to sign on as farmer owners and have happily been a part of this national cooperative ever since.
From the outside, Organic Valley may look like a giant but from the inside it is like a large family. Farmers have voice in the coop at all levels and we have many opportunities to participate in decision making. Here are some of the benefits we’ve found as owners of the cooperative:
1. We are the only stockholders. All decisions at the coop are made with farmers in mind first. The first tenet of these decisions is that farmers are paid first and fairly for the milk we produce.
2. Farmers are involved in many types of committees and decision making bodies that guide the coop in everything from policy decisions to the day to day workings in the coop.
3. Farmers are integrally involved in marketing. This is especially close to my heart as I coordinate the Farmers in Marketing program on the East Coast. This means that I assist in connecting farmers to consumers and retailers through farm tours, media requests, events, retail education and more. This is really powerful as people are very interested in farmers and what happens on our farms and the connection to our products. It also allows us as farmers to hear what consumers and retailers are thinking and what’s important to all of you.
If you’d like to buy products that have our milk in it or that support our farm here are a few ideas. Purchase anything Organic Valley! Since it’s a cooperative owned by us, any sale of Organic Valley product is a benefit to us. Erin’s picture is on the salted butter package. Organic Valley has a regional milk called Northeast Pastures into which our milk goes. We also sell a lot of milk to Stonyfield Farm for their yogurt so if you’re eating Stonyfield you’re probably eating some of our milk. Thanks!
A loaf of bread from 2010 Beidler Family Farm wheat
Thanks to everyone who has been following our posts. It’s difficult to find time to add new content because we’re busily trying to wrap up haying season and all the other needed work before the end of summer.
The good news is that our 2010 flour is now available. We have both wheat and spelt flour. Brent has sent the flour out for testing and for any bakers out there the falling numbers and protein level in our wheat is impressively high. Keep your eyes open for chances to purchase some flour. Or, if you live locally you can purchase flour directly from us or from a growing number of retailers in our area.
Grain's final destination on the combine - the bin.
Favorable weather conditions this past Friday and Saturday allowed Brent to get the combine rolling and harvest spelt and spring wheat. He estimates that we have about 10 tons of wheat and about the same amount of spelt. That may sound like a huge amount but we’re already getting busy finding outlets in the area to sell our flour. Brent ground some of the fresh whole wheat this afternoon and baked a couple of loaves of bread. Delicious. The next step will be to send a wheat sample away to the lab for testing. The lab is able to test the baking qualities of the wheat as well as checking for any mycotoxin levels in the grain. It’s always a wonderful feeling to see it travel from the field into the bin. It’s the culmination of many months of patient waiting and hopes that the harvest will go well.
One of the most frequently asked questions is whether our cows have names. Not only do the cows have names but usually a number of nicknames too. Each year we choose a category and each heifer calf that is born is named according to that category using the first letter of their mother’s name. For instance, this year we are naming our calves after friends in the developing world. In the accompanying photo you’ll see Erin washing Didi who is Dumpling’s calf and is named after Brent’s Bengali “sister” Angela who he calls Didi meaning “older sister.” Naming calves and watching the shared personality traits of each of the families of cows is one of the most fun things we do on our farm. Each year we develop a list of possible names and then as each cow’s due date approaches we have discussions on what name we will give if a heifer is born.
Erin washes her calf Didi
Brent harvests Red Fife wheat 2009
Five years ago we started raising small grains on our farm. Wheat and spelt are raised for flour for human consumption and millet and oats are raised for feed for the cows and for seed. Small grain growing in Vermont in the 21st century is still fairly uncommon. During the 1800′s over 40,000 acres of wheat were grown in the state. Today there are about 500 acres. We’re approaching this year’s harvest. Our big red combine, nicknamed Jake by a young friend of ours, is used to separate the grain from the stem of the plants. The stems are dried and made into straw which makes excellent bedding for the cows in the barn in the winter.
Another wagonload of hay heading to the barn.
Welcome to the Beidler Farm blog. Our intention is to give you the chance to get peeks of what takes place year round on our organic dairy farm. Please feel free to leave questions or comments if you’d like.
This time of year the cows spend their time outdoors, grazing and our focus is on putting up feed for winter. Over the course of the summer we do at least 3 cuttings of hay that will be fed to the cows over the winter and early spring. Here’s some photos of haying season which is now in full swing. We put up hay in two different forms. As large wrapped bales which look like large white marshmallows and in small square bales in the barn. Hay is mowed with a large mower, then tedded to spread it out to dry and then raked together so that the baler can follow windrows and make it into bales. Round bales take two days of sunshine to make since they don’t have to dry down as completely as small square bales which take 3 days of sunshine to complete.