Andy and I have been doing much thinking and talking together recently about the farm and the store. The timing is funny... there have been a few clips and articles circulating around Facebook regarding raw milk dairy farmers and the costs of raw milk.. so we must not be the only ones taking a long hard look at our business. These articles resonated with us....and I would like to whey in on the issue. (pun intended)
Andy and I want to make decisions that will allow us to be sustainable.. to be here with your milk for years to come. It seems that more and more small raw milk dairies are shutting down all the time. The trend is alarming, but as farmers ourselves.. also quite understandable. Rising feed costs, and the hours and dedication required make this a lifestyle that is physically and emotionally draining. Dairy farming is hard.. its hard work, its hard on families too... cows have to be milked 365 days a year, regardless of whether its a holiday, a snow day, a sick day, or someone's birthday. It's also financially draining at times. Cows are unpredictable, as most things in nature, they rarely choose convenient times and places in which to have their babies.. they seem to prefer the worst days and the most difficult locations for their caregivers! As we know all too well.. cows die. Sometimes its a slip on the ice... finding the slippery slope on a creek bed, freaky things happen with livestock... and the cost to the farmer can be financially devastating. Imagine waking up one morning to discover a $2500 loss in your checking account with no explanation... it's kind of like that. It can be hard to recoup from a hit like that. Cows don't always get pregnant or have babies when we need them to.. we are currently experiencing this side affect right now. We have 13 babies due by the end of March! Never would we have planned it that way! Consequently at the moment we have an all-time low in milk production! But in the next few weeks I wont be able to make enough cheese to keep up! I am just thankful we have the creamery... all that extra milk won't go to waste!
There has been much discussion about the costs of raw milk. We charge $8.50 for a gallon of our milk. When we sit down and figure all of our expenses.. the truth is it costs more like $10 to produce each gallon of milk and this is without our paying ourselves a paycheck. It is because of this realization that we moved to the new farm and built the creamery and store. Rather than keep raising the cost of our milk, we focused on adding value to our milk in the form of cheese and yogurt and we added the store so that our customers have the opportunity to not only support other local farmers and crafters.. but to help offset our expenses. By shopping in our store.. converting a small portion of your grocery budget you are helping to keep your milk price down. Everything in the store is here on consignment with us with a 20% commission rate. For every $6 spent in our store we make an additional $1.30 which just about helps us meet expenses for one gallon of milk! Purchases of cheese especially help as 100% of that sale stays with us and helps offset milk prices. We are asking everyone to convert your spending dollars..not add on. Not seeing what you need or want in the store? Let us know! Have an idea of something we should get in? Let us know! It is our hope that we will grow the store to generate enough income to help us be here for the long haul without having to raise our prices to make ends meet.
Being sustainable, to be here for years to come, involves more for us than just our financial bottom line. We also need to manage our time so that exhaustion is not such an issue for us. We have spent the last year spending every free moment working on the creamery and store. This has begun to take its toll on us. In years past we always operated on a self service, honor system basis. We are not able to run our business this way any longer because of the need to keep raw milk sales and store sales completely separate. This means that while our store was open six days a week.. we have had to be 100% available all that time... farm chores have been difficult to complete, family time has been non-existent, and we need to make some changes to avoid burnout. Beginning on March 1st we have changed our availability to give us more time to work the farm, care for animals, and our family. We have spent weeks discussing this, looking long term, and we feel confident our new schedule is one that we can maintain for years to come. It feels much more sustainable and manageable.
We are blessed! We LOVE what we do and we have the absolute BEST customers in the world! You have supported us through a rough and rocky couple of years. If it were not for YOU we would not be here today. We came so close to closing down last year and it is only because of the support of our donors, volunteers, and cheerleaders that we pulled through and completed the creamery! As we are nearing completion of our project we cannot tell you how very thankful we are and how much we are looking forward to being here for many years to come!
Don't know about all ya'll back in GA but here in NE its been HOT! We had weeks with the heat index over 100 daily.. the hottest day it was 107! How crazy is that! All of our cows have spent their days laying around seeking shade and cool... and not eating much. So, a few weeks later and here we are with a decline in milk. No cheese. Sad mommy over here with no new cheese.
Our English Cheddar sold out in about three weeks. That was insane! Guess folks liked it! We have about two buckets of feta left and a few rounds of the jacks. The raw milk feta was a total loss.. not sure what happened or how but it ended up with mold in it and feta is not a cheese that mold tastes good with. So, we ditched it. Sad.. but a learning experience non the less. All of our cheeses sold well..people seemed to enjoy them. We start calving again in January so hopefully we will be able to start making cheese again soon after the new year.
Market season is kicking my butt! I stay exhausted, but I really do enjoy it. I have met some wonderful families and have formed some farmer friendships for which I am very thankful. :-)
Here is a shot of the sky last Sunday at the Aksarben Village market. We got a good shower that was over briefly and learned just how wonderfully waterproof our tent is. We moved our tables in a bit and gave some folks a chance to get in out of the rain and taste some cheese! Love it when things work as they should!
We have had some fun lately too! A friend had an open house at their farm so we went along and enjoyed some wonderful food and the kids all got a chance to ride a horse. It's been a while. I miss having Tater around.
Its so awesome watching the boys. They are so different from the girls. Makes me wonder about the nature vs nurture theories. I guess its a bit of both. But man... these boys are a handful.. and precious! They are full of life and mischief. The things they get into... we can't seem to child proof enough. (As if we could really child-proof a farm. ) Today Andy came home to discover they had unplugged the electric fencer, plugged in an extension strip, found various tools and were having a field day. Sooo dangerous!
The really scary part is how quickly they snap into gear. One moment we look out the window to see a sight like this picture... two little guys just playing and having fun. Sweet.. right? Two seconds later (literally) the trike is empty and they are in search of power tools, ropes, buckets, ANYTHING, and they are up to some elaborate plan to destroy SOMETHING. Little turds.
Out we go in search of the terrors.. and we find this. Who could stay mad at a face like this? Not me.
Well, I guess that's about it for this month. Fall seems right around the corner. I need to get to work on putting the garden to bed for winter. So much to do here and there never seems to be enough time. It's hard to believe that tomorrow is September already. Where did the time go?
Boy, am I ready for March! This past month has felt like a rollercoaster ride. We have had some exciting moments and some tragic ones as well.
We have some new piggies! We have added some Hereford pigs to our family. Hereford pigs are a heritage breed that believe it or not originated right here in Nebraska. They are known for their gentle disposition and are excellent grazers. IF you are curious you can check out more on the breed by clicking HERE.
They are really fun little pigs... curious and very friendly. They love a good nose scratch so feel free to greet them when you are here... (mind the white fence - it bites).
These guys will be here close to the house for a few more weeks... we will be moving them out to pasture once we have grass. So, say hi while you can!
stole this off her facebook account! :-)
Ashley is home! She decided that she wants to attend college here at home rather than in Georgia so she came home this month. It was a difficult decision for her but she seems very settled and centered and at peace with her decision. Ashe is back at Lincoln High and will graduate from there this May. She only needed 17 credits to graduate so she only has to attend a half day at school.
I cannot begin to tell you all how absolutely wonderful it is to have her home. She is such an incredible, bright, alive, young woman... her spirit and exuberance fills our home! We are all so thrilled to have her back!
We added four new cows to our herd this month. Welcome Milly, Molly, Mandy, and Candy. Four beautiful jersey girls!
They are doing great.. they have adapted to our laid back milking style and are getting along with the other ladies just fine. We couldn't be happier with them.
We had a tragic accident this month. Weirdly enough it was actually the night that Milly, Molly, Mandy, and Candy arrived. The power lines on the road came apart at the insulator and fell on our fences. This caused quite the fireworks show which scared the cows and calves here next to the house. They ran. One hit the fence and was electrocuted and three others ran into her and were lost as well. The whole experience was horrific... we waited an hour for the power company to come shut down the lines and make our farm safe again... very nerve wracking. All in all... we are lucky... we could have lost many more cows than four, as bad as loosing four is.
We are blessed beyond words that this accident happened at night, that Andy did not touch the fences when he went out to check on everyone, and that our children slept through the whole event. We were able to tell them what happened in as gentle a manner as possible, they were spared from witnessing any of it.
The next week was one of waiting. Waiting on OPPD, waiting on the insurance folks, waiting to bury our four lost cows. The children mourned and the other cows mourned.. it was heartbreaking to watch. The children laid roses on the cows and we covered them with a tarp and waited. One of the adult cows lost her calf eight weeks early and we waiting and watched to see how many more would suffer the same fate. Electricity is such a funny thing.... one moment it's a necessity and the next it is devastatingly dangerous.
Miraculously we had a beautiful calf born last week! Her Mom is Tippy and one of our best cows. They were in the area with the accident so we did not expect the calf to survive. We named the little girl Tiffany and I have some incredible shots of her birth. Tiffany's birth leaves us with hope that maybe we have turned the corner and the rest of our cows will be well. btw... she is named after a friend of ours.. Tiffany Baker. This may seem a strange way to pay tribute to someone but she just reminded me to Tiffany... long, leggy and gorgeous!
All is well with Tiffany.. she is a gorgeous calf.. very tall and leggy and full of beans!
She is in the barn keeping warm right now but will join the other calves soon.
All of these new additions means one thing - MORE MILK! Our milk shortage is now a thing of the past! The past two weeks have been a blur of farm tours as we have opened up our waiting list and have been able to accept new customers. It also means the return of one of everyone's favorite things - CREAM!
Our cream separator has been chugging away and so has my food processor with butter! LOVE butter! LOVE CREAM!
We are bottling over 36 gallons of milk a day right now. Our family has been enjoying treats such as homemade raw cream top yogurt again! Last week I made flavors such as honey, maple syrup, and succanat vanilla which were all huge hits. I also tried molasses yogurt....( that one needs work).
Our new baby arrived today! His name is Shep. He is a Great Pyrenees puppy. He is such a big boy.. only eight weeks old but HUGE!
Shep will be a working dog... his job will be to guard the sheep. In a few weeks he will go to live with them and learn their ways. They will be his pack... not us. This is kind of sad since he is such a love... but our sheep need him.
Even though there is snow on the ground and it's 23 degrees outside.... spring is on it's way! The eggs are a sure sign! Look at what Hannah gathered tonight!
It's almost here... it's almost here! Before we know it we will have cows out on pasture, sheep shearing, and flowers everywhere... and milk will go back down in price! I could not be more excited!
Ya'll stay warm out tonight... its a cold one! I am off to make more yogurt.
Artisan Cheesemaker. Lover of all foods dairy..