From Producer to Consumer

| 7/20/2011 3:36:00 PM

Becky, Andy, Elly, Ethan, and LiamAs I write this, Andy and I are getting all of our half gallon jars together and seeing what quantity we have. So far, we're good for 4.5 gallons and could possibly acquire three more bottles for a total of 6 whole gallons. We're putting together our bottle stock in preparation for a milk run tomorrow.

Since we began milking cows in May of 2009, and then worked for the farm in La Crosse, we have always had access to free, wholesome, fresh-from-the-cow milk. Since we moved away from the farm three weeks ago, we have officially stepped out of the role of producer and been ushered into the realm of consumer once again.

It's a bittersweet time in our lives. Being a consumer is by far the easier path to follow, at least physically. As I watch the thermometer outside push beyond 100˚ today, I'm secretly thankful to not have any animals to check or fences to repair. Likewise, I think of the bitter winter winds dropping the degrees below zero and count my blessings to be able to stay in warm socks and a sweater indoors. Farming, or gardening, isn't an easy route to travel and the reason you see the majority of folks in this country opting out. But not producing is bitter for us as well. Being able to make a meal from meats and veggies and fruits that you worked hard for, managed and harvested is an incredible reward that no sauna-like day can take away.

Part of Andy and Ben's business involves taking part in several local farmers' markets, trying to spread the word about Gourmet Grass-fed and just get the local public educated about grass-fed meats. I have taken the kids to visit them at three of the five markets they do in a given week and we have fun seeing all the different farm vendors and crafters in each city. It sure is a lot easier to walk the aisles of breads and vegetables and meats, picking what you'd like for the following week's meals, than to have planted and weeded and sweated and harvested all those good things. The folks behind the tables busily tend to the customers or replenish their stock, making it look beautiful for me, the consumer. I appreciate the effort and smile as I see some have gone to more effort than others.

Last week, I bought a pasture-raised chicken from one of our old farmer friends, Ralph Polasky. $8.25 was a steal in my opinion, considering I know the amount of work it takes to raise a pastured bird to market weight and get it ready for sale. I wanted to give his newest product, Cornish Game Hens a try, but I had run out of cash for the day (I budget $20 per week at the markets). Maybe this week will be Game Hen week.

At the Neenah Farm Market, I saw our old friends from Hample Haven Farm. This family was just getting into grass-fed lamb as Andy and I were setting up the Omro Friday Night Market last summer. They wanted to be a vendor in the fledgling market and we welcomed the diversity. Ultimately, the drive was too long for their return on sales, so they stopped vending in Omro. We didn't hear from them again. Therefore, seeing the family last week, selling out of their healthy and sustainable lamb cuts in Neenah was very encouraging for me. Knowing what I do about the unique challenges raising grass-fed lamb, I spent $11.64 of our $20 on some meaty lamb shanks from Hample Haven Farm and wished that I could have spent more. I know that this Saturday, we'll probably get some more "poor man cuts" from them as braising hocks and necks and tails are our favorite dish! (And even something I feel comfortable doing in the kitchen).

Nebraska Dave
7/25/2011 7:23:46 AM

Becky and Andy, your posts are always such good reads. It brings back the memories of the just what it takes to run a small farm. Having been in that environment during my youth and living what you have described makes me appreciate the dedication and endurance the local small farmers endure to bring the produce to the consumer. I'm not sure but I don't think the local farmer can sell raw milk to the public in my state of Nebraska either. Reading your posts always gives me encouragement that the spirit that made this country great is still alive in the hearts and minds of the small farmers. I for one will try to keep that spirit alive and well. Have a great day in your new life adventure.

Mountain Woman
7/23/2011 6:38:01 AM

Becky, We sat down and reevaluated all our expenses and just as you did, we dropped all the extraneous stuff. We never go out to eat either because our meals at home are just a wonderful time for us and I prefer our simple way of cooking not to mention the money we save. Anyway, we were paying so much for basic living items like satellite, etc. that it didn't make sense any more. I'm not into raw milk (don't have anything against it either) but we always, always buy from local Vermont dairies. So important to support our farms. We are fortunate to keep expanding the amount of food we raise but I've disciplined myself to eat locally and seasonally. I enjoyed your article.

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