Thursday, December 25, 2008

Where Does Your Milk Go?

Often, visitors to St. Brigid’s Farm ask, “Where does you milk go?” It is sold through a producer member marketing cooperative, Land O’ Lakes. Now what does that really mean and where does the milk really go? The Land O' Lakes Cooperative began in the upper Midwest in 1921 as a small regional creamery and today has grown to be the largest feed company in North America, the world leader in animal milk replacers and the largest distributor of agronomy products in the United States. Land O' Lakes has a rich history of serving America's farmers and marketing America's favorite dairy products. Today, this farmer-owned cooperative processes the milk from over 3,000 dairy producers from Pennsylvania to California to more than 50 countries worldwide.

The milk specifically produced at St. Brigid’s Farm is hauled in an insulated stainless steel 18 wheeler seen in the first picture to the right and not in milk cans and pulled by a horse drawn wagon as seen in the 1921 photo. Holly Tree Trucking Co. comes to our farm every other day measures the milk amount, collects a sample for quality testing, and pumps the milk from our stationary refrigerated tank to the truck. From here the milk goes to Pennsylvania where two things can happen depending on the demand of the day. Either it is pasteurized, homogenized, and standardized to skim, low fat or whole milk for bottling or it is manufactured into butter and skim milk powder. The butter is packaged for retail sales in 1 pound blocks with the familiar Indian Maiden logo. The dried skim milk powder is bagged for domestic and export markets.

A few more questions we are often asked are, “Do you drink your own cow’s milk?” or “Will you sell us some of your cow’s milk”? We love to drink milk and buy two to three gallons per week for the two of us from the store. The milk from St. Brigid’s Farm Jerseys is about 5% fat and is closer to a glass of half & half cream than 3.5% whole milk. I must admit though for a treat from time to time we sneak some fresh milk from the dairy to the house to put on a bowl of cereal or berries. And then there is the one time of year where we make egg nog. The fresh milk is perfect for this providing us cream for whipping and whole milk for our favorite seasonal beverage.

As for direct sales of fresh milk, the unfortunate answer is no. The dairy industry is heavily regulated by state health officials and the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. For reasons pertaining to food safety and your health it is unlawful for us to sell unpasteurized milk in the state of Maryland.

Merry Christmas! Bob & Judy

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thanks !

We have neighbors all around us that are the best! It is nice to see that the next generation carrys on that tradition. Last summer our last born heifer calf was kind of late for our calving season but just perfect for the 4-H show season cutoff date. Pansy was born to Poppy on June 6th 2008 and we arranged to give her to Drew Debnam for his 4-H project. We received a nice note from Drew a few days later but yesterday the card and photograph above were totally unexpected. Thank you Drew!

To the right is a photo for Drew. Poppy and new born Pansy on June 6th.

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, November 7, 2008

Field to Fork Dinner

Our motto on St. Brigid's Farm, especially during one of the driest summers on record, is never complain about rain. Another prominent philosophy we practice as graziers is always have a Plan B ready. For our first Field to Fork dinner, we had to follow both mantras and gladly implemented Plan B, dinner in the new barn, as we finally had the chance to celebrate a bit of rain.

Sure, this changed our event from being set in a pastoral scene under the stars to going inside but the storms did not dampen the enthusiasm for local foods, Heifer International, the Chester River Association, and visiting with new and old friends.

The evening was an amazing event. Friends, friends of friends and complete strangers all convened to participate in a unique dining experience. Our guests mingled and enjoyed local beer, wine, music and a sumptuous five course dinner under the watchful and curious eyes of our Jersey cows who didn’t know quite what to make of all the activity.

The skies opened up as the last guests arrived and the rain nearly drowned out the wonderful classical guitar music of Tom Anthony and Van Williamson. Tom later joined his fellow band members, Tom McHugh and Bill Matthews of Chesapeake Scenes to perform local songs during dessert. The group has performed all over the world but, according to Tom McHugh, this was their first performance in a cow barn.

The wind is always stronger here than most place in the county and the night of our dinner was no exception. In spite of our efforts to design centerpieces in anticipation of gusts of wind by putting candles in votives in a vase, the flames were blown out repeatedly until resourceful guests put saucers on top for protection. One tiki light caught on fire but was extinguished when our son-in-law, Rich Yost, quickly buried it in the sand in the freestalls.

We are so pleased that so many people joined us to celebrate community and local food. Almost ninety people braved the inclement weather, some drove from the western shore, others arrived knowing only us and some brought all their neighbors.

Sustainable food production is the thread that ties together all three organizations involved with the dinner. The Chester River Association, Heifer International and St. Brigid’s Farm all strive to facilitate the implementation of the three “Ps” of sustainability: protect the environment, provide quality of life for the people on the farm and promote healthy, vibrant agricultural communities. Our first Field to Fork dinner showcased all three and we are still amazed at the excitement generated by this event. Thanks to all who attended and made the dinner a huge success in so many ways but mostly because we are sending Heifer International a check for $2100!! Check out Heifer International’s website www.heifer.org to learn what such a life-changing gift to resource–poor families can accomplish in promoting sustainable agriculture in the USA and around the world.

We want to extend special thanks and appreciation to Chef Craig Sewell of A Cook’s Cafe who arrived at the farm willing to accept any logistical challenge he faced working with “Plan B” with an open mind and good attitude. He and his wonderful and competent staff transformed our plan barn into an elegant dining space and served a meal that could compete with any of the fine restaurants in the area.

Thanks also to Marjorie Adams and Elise Kolaja for sharing our vision and passion for a local food celebration and supported us during the months of planning and to Kurt Kolaja and Patty Mowell who took time from mingling to capture the event in the wonderful photos on this blog and on the Chesapeake Foodie web site.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Autumn Grazing

It has been too long since I've posted an update to our blog. A dry and busy fall coupled with the recent Field to Fork Dinner have kept us very busy. The steers above seem to be asking "what is next" as they bask in the warmth of the morning light.

Autumn is a wonderful time at St. Brigid's Farm. As I write a post I often wonder who the audience will be so allow me say up front that this one will be a tad technical. Why is it a wonderful time? The list is long...
  1. We have finally received rain! Because of that the cows have grass to graze.

  2. Grass at this time of year grows similar to spring time vegetative growth but will not get "ahead of the cows" due to shorter days and cool nights.

  3. None of our cows are due to calve at this time of year so we have no babies and no expecting Moms.

  4. The cows we are milking are all accustomed to the routine and can be called "easy keepers".

  5. Stable fly and horn fly annoyance is over.

  6. Heat stress for the cows is over.

  7. Storage of winter forage is complete.

  8. Judy has a very capable part time helper for milking , Katie Dixon.

Now about the pictures...we intended to re-seed Field #3west this fall in to perennial rye grass. Conditions were so dry in August and September for preparing the seedbed that at the last minute we decided to wait a full year before planting a sward that we'd be living with for the next 10 years. Instead we opted to plant winter rye (aka cereal rye) followed by sorghum as a summer annual next year and then get ready again in '09 for the perennial rye grass. So far the winter rye has been a hit!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


HAPPY NEW YEAR? Sure I know it sounds kind of strange to consider a happy new year on Labor Day. Especially as you view the "dust devil" whirling in the parched field of corn stubble. Every fall on farms all around the area the beginning of September is in many ways the start of a new year. Harvest begins, fairs are over, school buses run again, ospreys leave and geese return. On St. Brigid's Farm we too are excited about the new year because there is a lot going on right now preparing for fall, winter, and years ahead.

Corn silage was started early and required many many more acres than usual because of the dry weather and low crop yields. Our neighbor, Roy Crow, offered additional acreage for harvest and another neighbor, 4-Ms (Miller Bros.) did a splendid job filling the silo for storage of winter feed.

Reseeding of selected pastures is another job appropriate for this time of year. With this summer's drought and significant weed pressure from a pesky fellow called horse nettle we have decided to reseed 16 acres on the west side of the farm. This gives us the opportunity to spread manure slurry on this acreage prior to the seeding. Donnie Pool from the Biospread Company does a great job doing this task with his specialized equipment. Unfortunately we are unable to plow this ground as planned because the soil is too dry. Sometime of the next month we'll get a soaking rain and then we'll be onto that job.

Construction of a new heifer and steer barn for winter time housing by Triple-H Construction Co. adds to the bustle around St. Brigid's Farm these days. During previous winters as we bring in from the pastures nearly 200 animals our space for resting, feeding and care of the herd is VERY crowded. A new barn will make the care and feeding of the entire herd more convenient for us, more pleasant for the animals, and preserve the pastures from over winter damage. Earl and his crew from Triple-H should have this facility finished before the beginning of October.

Lastly, there is a repeating seeding project on St. Brigid's Farm. That is the reseeding of field #1, our field of warm & cool season annuals. In the summer we grow grazing sorghum and in the fall/winter we grow oats and triticale. Kevin Miller is seen here doing the dusty job of discing the sorghum and today's plans are to have it reeded and ready for the tropical storm I just read about forcasted to arrive here Saturday! IF this holds true it will be a welcome relieve to our dormant pastures that are not irrigated and to the daily task of moving the traveling gun irrigator on the precious east side of field #3.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kiwis & Crustaceans

Many of you know that Judy and I are partners in a start up large scale New Zealand style grazing dairy in the boot heel of Missouri. Last weekend we welcomed the general manger, Peter Gaul, and his family for their first visit to St. Brigid's Farm. In fact, it was their first visit to the Delmarva Peninsula so we decided to highlight their vacation with some local favorites. No doubt a proper July dinner in Kent County must include steamed crabs and corn on the cob. We served both followed by St. Brigid’s burgers on the grill. You can see from the photos that everyone seemed to enjoy the mess even though I got the impression Peter was not so sure about the idea. Jo on the other hand dug right into the tasty bay scrubbers while comparing them to large crayfish from ‘back home’. Lance thought the Sam Adams was a perfect fit for the crab while Theo enjoyed our new favorite soft drink, Dr. Bob. The evening on our deck over looking cows munching their evening grass was lovely time to share with friends from abroad.
Visitors are always welcome here but particularly it is enjoyable for us when they have an interest in grazing. Within in minutes after the Gaul’s arrived we marched out to the field to study the grasses. Mom, Dad and two teenaged boys all engaged in a walk over the entire farm discussing and debating the pasture based system we employ on St. Brigid’s Farm. Their comments and suggestions, as with other visitors from grazing corners of the world, are a valuable tool in our learning process.
The following day the Gaul’s had to make a flight connections from Dulles airport but not until late in the afternoon. So, what best to share with them in Kent County? Judy and I both had obligations so Pop Fry stepped up to the plate and toured them around the county. No one could do the job better so off they went to the Jones Family Dairy followed by a BLT lunch (thank you BTF) on the beach at Ken & Bronwyn’s. I can only imagine the stories Pop was able to share with them for a full half day drive around the county!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dealing With Summer Drought Condititons

Often we are asked, "how do you graze your cows in the summer if there is not enough rain for the grass?". Well, the summer of 2008 makes us answer that question. We had very adequate rain going into June but then it stopped. Less than an inch in June followed by only 1/4" so far in July is putting a lot of stress on the grass, the cows, and the farmers in our region. The tassling corn that is nearly 6' tall with no ear is indicative of the situation.

On St. Brigid's Farm we manage times like this from several different angles. First,we have a variety of grasses and some of those are very drought tolerant. One of those is Reed Canary Grass (RCG). Another is a warm season annual, Sorghum. This grass is a cousin to corn except it has no ears and will regrow after each pass of grazing in only about 3 weeks. And finally, were are fortunate to have irrigation water available for the pastures that the milking cows graze.

Time for bed, and dreaming it will rain tonight!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Organs! - New Amsterdam Market

When we were trying to decide which cuts of veal to take with us to the New Amsterdam Market I thought there might be some slim chance that we'd sell some 'organ meat'. Who would have thought that we'd sell out of tongue, sweet breads, cheeks, etc. and return home with some lovely standing rib roasts. This morning I found a recent post by an un-identified blogger from Brooklyn. His story is cute...

If I wasn't already psyched about this market after the oysters, this did it. The fine folks from St. Brigid's Farm in Maryland came all the way up here to sell their meat, including tons of off cuts that made me incredibly happy.
They had me at Sweetbreads for $3. My jaw dropped. I've never seen Sweetbreads available anywhere but on a menu. I almost got them and still sort of wish I had, but I wasn't going ot have the time to devote to learning new cuts that evening, so I passed.
Instead, I bought veal cheeks and a veal tongue. I braised them both, cooking the cheeks in a mixture of veal stock and veal demiglace. The tongue I simmered in rich pork stock. Mmmm.
This is definitely something I've never seen at the Greenmarket:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Amsterdam Market


NEW YORK, NY - JULY 2, 2008 - On Sunday, July 29 2008, an ongoing stream of 7,000 enthusiastic New Yorkers and visitors crowded the aisles of New Amsterdam Market, which met in New Market Square - the public plaza fronting the historic New Market Building at the Seaport in Lower Manhattan. By attending the market they expressed their support for:

• preserving and rededicating the Seaport's two public owned market halls - Mayor LaGuardia's New Market Building (1939) and the adjacent Tin Building (1908) - as a civic institution dedicated to regional and sustainable food systems; and

• transforming the Seaport into a vibrant market district, where private retail is anchored by public commerce.

Over 1,200 market goers signed a petition supporting a request that the next New Amsterdam Market be held within the New Market Building, in the fall of 2008.

"The ongoing popularity of New Amsterdam Market proves that New Yorkers support regional food and innovative distribution channels, and that they also value the legacy of historic, public spaces which give soul and character to our city" says Robert LaValva, Director of the New Amsterdam Public Market Association - the non-profit organization spearheading the transformation of the Seaport into a world-class civic, cultural, and retail destination. "By preserving the New Market Building and Tin Building and continuing their use as public markets, we can create a unique and compelling market district that will become a home for the regional and sustainable food movement and bring New Yorkers back to the Seaport."

"I was reminded of London's Borough Market" said Jacob Dickson, proprietor of Dickson's Farmstand Meats, one of more than 60 vendors present on June 29th. "When I lived in London I would travel 40 minutes by subway to Borough Market at least once a month, making a day of visiting the market as well as neighborhood shops and eateries. As a distributor of regionally-sourced products, I see a market like this as the perfect venue to connect NYC's food-lovers with nearby farmers and producers."

"The New Amsterdam Market was a huge success from our perspective and from the view of many who attended. I can't tell you how many people asked us if we were coming back next weekend" wrote another vendor, Judy Gifford of St. Brigid's Farm, Kennedyville Maryland. And Mo Frechette of the famed Zingerman's Deli of Ann Arbor signed the petition by stating "New York should have as great a food market as London, as Barcelona, as any of the world's capitals."

New Amsterdam Market included visitors from all five boroughs, upstate New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Spain, Italy, Japan, and Britain, including traveling delegations from Borough Market and specialty food retailer Marks and Spencer.

An alternative proposal for developing the Seaport was recently released by General Growth Properties, the Seaport's tenant. It calls for the demolition of the New Market Building and removal of the Tin Building from its historic site, the 1836 birthplace of the world-renowned Fulton Fish Market, to make room for a 42 story waterfront residential tower. The Seaport neighborhood has been a public market district since 1642, when New York was still New Amsterdam.