Farming as Human Nature
We trust nature. She teaches us how to farm in a way that is healing and restorative instead of extractive. Looking to nature for guidance results in a cascade of benefits. For example, our cows thrive because of the uncomplicated act of feeding them only what they were born to eat; grass. They don't make as much milk as grain-fed cows, but the milk they do make is richer, tastes better and is vastly healthier; both because it is loaded with good stuff and lacking in bad stuff.
Sadly, feeding cows solely on pasture has become a radical notion. Virtually every dairy cow in the US, whether she is "conventional," "certified organic," or even "pastured" still eats large amounts of grain in addition to any forage she may get. Why? Because on grain, cows produce larger amounts of milk, which is profitable, but they suffer for it. There are numerous painful and debilitating conditions associated with heavy grain feeding. The quality of the milk suffers too. There are increased food safety risks and horrible environmental degradation associated with grain production and feeding and confinement farming. The average lifespan of a confined, grain-fed cow is around 5 years. The natural lifespan of a healthy cow is around 15 and up to 20 years.
Our cows live outside. They are clean, fit, friendly, gorgeous and dare I say, happy. They smell good! They live in the fresh air, feeling the sunshine, gentle rain and breezes. They walk up and down, grazing the hillsides, harvesting their own food and fertilizing their own meadows, returning critical nutrition, improving and building the soil as they go. They sleep, socialize and have their calves out there too. In winter and during bad weather, they can choose to take shelter, but they are never confined except for an hour or so at milking time. Managing cows on pasture is not just great for the animals, it is also critical for protecting pollinators, biodiversity and clean water. It vastly reduces the need for fossil fuels and totally eliminates the need for herbicides, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. It builds productive topsoil and sequesters carbon. It is healthier on the farmers and their neighbors too.
We farm this way because for us, it is the only way. The alternative isn't pretty, despite the dairy industry's slick markteing. We want you to see beyond that and truly understand the origins of your food. We want you know exactly what you are getting when you make a choice to spend your money. By choosing our food, you become connected to us, our land and our animals. We are humbled and honored by that responsibly. We thank you.
In the introduction to his momentous book, The Farm as Ecosystem, the late, great, Jerry Brunetti breaks it down:
When I was an animal science major, I was advised that putting animals into farms akin to concentration camps and force feeding them only several species of grains fortified with vitamins, minerals, antibiotics, parasitides, larvacides, coccidiostats, hormones, ionophores, arsenic, recycled manure, and recycled tankage, ad nauseum, would lead to the agricultural equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal. All of this hoopla was based on the fact that we could now extract more gallons of milk, bushels per acre, and meat per animal with the least amount of people doing the work - thanks to oil and machines. 'Get big and get efficient (or get out)' were the mantras that operators heard from the U.S. agriculture secretaries, the university extension agents, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), fertilizer salesmen, and conventional veterinarians whose practices depended on 'fire engine' medicine (treating acute symptoms created by stress from confinement and crowding). The lending institutions bought into it, thereby only encouraging farmers wanting an industrial economy-of-scale operation, and the inevitable debt and depreciation that followed.
This industrial model of agriculture on steroids has not only created an economic evisceration of rural communities, it has generated untold amounts of environmental damage, such as a dead zone the size of Massachusetts in the Gulf of Mexico; a 'fast food nation,' as investigative journalist and author Eric Schlosser calls it, contributing to runaway diabetes and obesity; a cancer rate now at 41 percent in the United States alone; and the annihilation of innumerable species due to the elimination of our precious grasslands and hedgerows.
At Mountain Home Farm, we feel a deep desire and responsibility to find another way.
(Lindsay) I wasn't born on a farm, but I was born a farmer. Ever since I was a tiny kid, I've had a strong connection to land and animals. While growing up in the suburbs, I never knew how or if I would ever get to farm, but my passion never dimmed. After high school and year or two of college, I left to wander around the Rockies, working on ranches and hiking my ass off. I eventually got a biology degree from Humboldt State University in Northern California and worked various field biology and wildlife jobs in the high peaks of California and Arizona and on an island in Southeast Alaska. I moved back East in 2003, and worked for the Vermont Department of Water Quality. Although I loved my job, an opportunity to farm full time and start my own little farmstand business on leased land fell into my lap. I jumped. It's been over 10 years!
Now, my business partner, Evan and I own nearly 200 acres of some of the finest soils you can find in the mountains of Vermont. I've got two brave, strong, smart daughters who are my greatest teachers. I'm an advocate for family farms and am fortunate to be a part of an overwhelmingly supportive community of other farmers, activists and enthusiastic eaters. I'm constantly working on improving my farming by respecting natural systems, the dignity of my animals and the health of my community.
Farming is rarely easy, but it is, for certain, endlessly satisfying. It is my life's work and my great honor to try to grow the best food I possibly can.
(Evan) When I was a kid I didn't know I wanted to be a farmer. I did know there were a handful of things I needed in my life and those things have not changed all these many years later. I need quiet and wild spaces to explore. I need forests and babbling brooks. I need land and work to do on that land. I need that work to be pulling me in a direction that both nurtures the land and my soul (this need is a newer addition).
Farming is something more than a profession because it draws from so many different skill sets and fuses them together with your lifestyle. This is something I have always loved about farming. On any given day I can be milking cows, making butter, spreading manure, building a pig hutch, setting up fence and working on a computer. Not to say it is always a pleasure (there is no shortage of hard days), but this diversity of tasks is, to me, a wonderful quality of the job.
When I was in college at UVM I was studying Environmental Science and a rather frustrated with the gloom and doom of the field. At some point I began spending time on farms and quickly realized this was just up my alley. This was a place many of my needs could be met. I switched my major and got my bachelors degree in Ecological Agriculture. At this time I also spent a lot of time on different farms learning different skills and seeing different models. I spent a summer on a diversified farm In Tuscany, Italy where my convictions for this way of life were solidified.
Today I am happy to milking cows and making some of the most delicious products around. I am also happy to be sharing this lifestyle with my kids and friends and to be deepening my relationship with the land and forests of this sacred place in the hills!