Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Action! Cut! Take Two! at St. Brigid's Farm

The Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association wanted to give the food bloggers who attended our Field to Fork Dinner a video of St. Brigid’s Farm.  So they hired producer David Pickel of Aardvark Video Works to shoot the film.  David, his grip and several MDA staff spent four hours on Sunday afternoon with us.  David actually said "Action" and "Cut".  Bob and I had a great time trying to tell our story in sound clips while looking at the camera and acting natural!  Bob did his spot at the tractors in one take.  When I finally viewed the video I was relieved and surprised at how good it is.  David did a terrific job.  Check it out!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Food for the Soul

As I looked down the long table at our 6th Field to Fork Dinner, I have to say I was pretty impressed. Here we are, a small, working, Mom and Pop dairy farm, and we had 150 people at dinner on a beautiful evening with amazing food! 

We start planning the event in April when we pick a date, select a beneficiary and line up the caterer.  This year we partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association to support the Maryland and Capital Area Food Banks.  Upon a friend’s recommendation, we chose Palate Pleasers from Annapolis to cater the event and were delighted with the result. 

The weather was perfect – 60 degrees and lots of clouds for great photos.  The catering crew was incredible.  In less than two hours they had transformed our pasture into an elegant dining setting. Staff dressed the tables with linen and burlap, tucked menus into napkins and set out the fine china.

The evening started with beverages including Lockbriar apple cider, Troegs beer and Crow Farm Chardonnay.   Chapel’s Country Creamery’s outstanding cheeses were served with figs, apple chutney and crackers.  Crab cakes set on slices of lemon and decorated with African Violet blossoms from my kitchen were passed to the great delight of guests 
Evening Stroll, featuring Rebecca Petri, provided the music for the cocktail hour.  She and her fellow band members were outstanding.  They had a great selection of songs and a wealth of talent.

  Chef Amy Daniels created a spectacular menu with local produce.  Dinner started with Arnold Farms’ butternut squash soup poured from a silver coffee pot and sweet potato ciabatti from Magnolia Bread Company.  Salad of Colchester Farm CSA arugula and beets with blue cheese followed.  The star of the meal had to be the St. Brigid’s Farm osso bucco with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  Guests were amazed by the tenderness and flavor.  Homemade pumpkin pie and apple crustada with Lockbriar vanilla and cinnamon ice cream made a perfect ending for a perfect evening.                                                                                                                       

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer Intern, Jessica Hill

Jessica Hill will be heading back to the University of Delaware for her senior year in one week.  She has spent the summer milking four evenings every week since the end of May.  I “found” Jessica when Bob and I were at her parents’ home looking at antique pedal tractors and celebrating the refurbishing of my Farmall H.  Jessica’s dad, John, had been working on the H since late spring and had just delivered her to the farm.  Jessica was home for the semester break and made the mistake of mentioning that she was an Animal and Food Science major.  “Want to milk cows this summer?”  I asked.  Poor girl had never met me nor given much thought to dairy cows.  She politely smiled but did not say no!  I took that as a good sign.

Shortly before her spring break, Jessica called and we scheduled a date for her to visit the farm.  She was inquisitive during the tour and genuinely interested.  So we agreed that she would start after school ended. I have been thanking my lucky stars ever since.
 On several occasions while in Chestertown (at the shoe store, at our friend’s home, at Brooks Tavern), people have said that they knew I had hired Jessica and that she was a good worker.  Jessica’s mom, Sherrie, is a cardiac rehabilitation nurse at the local hospital and knows everyone!!  Small town, USA.
Jessica is indeed a good worker, a good sport and a tough cookie.  She is a supervisor at the University of Delaware Creamery during the semester.  This summer she exercised four horses before breakfast and trained another after milking.  In addition, she found time to place second in a run/bike/canoe race last weekend with no training.  Oh, to be 21 again!!
We wish Jessica all the best back at school and will see her September 28 when she returns to milk the night of the Field to Fork dinner.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


We think our cows are pretty comfortable, especially when they are outside on pasture, but our opinion is somewhat subjective.  This fall we had the opportunity to have an independent group assess our facility as well as cow behavior to determine cow comfort on the farm.C.O.W.S. stands for Comfort, Oxidative Balance, Well-Being and Sustainability and is a program developed by a graduate student at the University of British Columbia and managed by NOVUS to measure cow comfort.

C.O.W.S. Project Manager Lindsey Collings and Katie Hanehan, Jr. Project Manager arrived before morning milking to take measurements of the stalls, water troughs, feed bunk and to apply the electronic data loggers that measure total lying time on 40 cows 3 years and older.  After milking, they visually evaluated gait scores and hock health and conducted a survey of management practices such as frequency of hoof trimming and bedding.

The bright orange monitors remained on the cows for 5 days.  They were removed and mailed to NOVUS along with the transmitter.  Staff analyzed the data and found that...Our COWS are indeed comfortable.  While they were being monitored, the cows were in during the day and outside at night so we combined both housing options.

The level of lameness was very low as was the degree of hock and knee injury.  Our cows spend an appropriate amount of time lying down and have adequate space for eating and drinking in the barn. Cows spend about 5 hours per day eating, 12-14 hours resting, 3 hours standing, walking, grooming and hanging out, a half hour per day drinking and 3.5 hours milking.  Thus, about 70% of the cow's day is spent eating and or resting.

Studies and general observation show that cows like to feed together, to feed early in the morning and early in the evening and will push other cows out of the way with more than 500 pounds of force to get to feed if there limited bunk space available.  We will feed in waves or batches if we have too many cows to eat in one feeding.

While this evaluation showed that we do have comfortable cows, it also reinforces our philosophy of observing, measuring and monitoring to be sure we minimize situations that could negatively impact cow comfort and well-being.