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Annual Earth Day Reflections of A Goat Dairy Farmer

Farm News

This week marked the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. As goat farmers and cheese makers, we mark the occasion, not because it sparks awareness about our place in the environmental stewardship realm. Our farm’s dependence on the soil, water and air that envelope us is never taken for granted. Our entire way of farming embeds environmental stewardship in every decision. We converted nearly 20 acres of annual row-crop agriculture to perennial pastures and fruit trees over 16 years ago. This conversion was not purely altruistic; we wanted to raise dairy goats on pasture and grow fruit trees organically in the Midwest (that turned out to be quixotic). Yet, underlying these agronomic decisions was our reverence for the underlying prairie soils and our desire to restore them to their former glory.

As soil scientists, the deep dark, wind-blown loam that covers much of central Illinois, is sacrosanct. The tales of white European settlers struggles to tame the deep-rooted prairie grasses and till the soils they held are legendary. So too are the catastrophic losses of soil organic matter that volatilized as CO2 when those soils were first tilled. It will take a long time to rebuild the stocks of organic matter to pre-European settler levels, but we accept the proposition with missionary-like zeal.

Celebrating Earth Day in this time of pandemic has also heightened another aspect of the kind of farming we have chosen: our short supply chain. While many in the industrial food supply system struggle to keep products on the shelves of grocery stores, we stand along side our fellow local food farmers in providing our communities directly with an abundance of fresh, healthy and seasonal produce, grains, meats, eggs and yes (our place) dairy products. Across our Midwestern landscape that is finally waking up from winter, local food farmers are rolling up their sleeves, planting crops, harvesting winter greenhouse greens, milling flour, collecting eggs and turning milk into cheese. Their resilience and nimbleness have allowed them to offer their products through make-shift online stores, farmer aggregators and clever home delivery services. The silver lining of social distancing is that folks are turning to local food farmers to keep them well fed. This too will make our mother earth smile.

What’s New at the Farm

The goat kids are growing up fast. We have already weaned the kids born in late February and early March. Their moms are producing LOTS of milk (we’re milking over 100 goats currently; the most we’ve ever milked), so we are making LOTS and LOTS of cheese. We hope you are enjoying cheeses and accompaniments purchased through our new online store.

We’ve added some new items to our online retail store:

  • Fresh chive and Lemon Zest Chevre!!

  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-our first batch of goat-milk camembert-style cheese

  • Fruit leather Trio (“Fruit Wowsers”) by Jeff Hake of Funk’s Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains

Order now for pick up at the farm tomorrow (Saturday, April 25th). If we get your order by 10 am tomorrow, we will have it ready for you to pick up from 1-4 pm. You can also order to have any of these items shipped next week (we ship on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week, and most orders are received within 1-3 days after shipping).

NEXT Saturday May 2nd is the start of the Urbana Market at the Square season. WE WILL BE THERE, BUT THERE WILL BE RESTRICTIONS ON HOW FARMERS SELL THEIR PRODUCTS AND HOW WE INTERACT WITH OUR CUSTOMERS. Stay tuned for details about how this will work next week.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and we are working on some special ways to help you celebrate, albeit virtually and remotely in some cases. Details forthcoming.

Our Farm Dinner Season is still on hold. We are still optimistic that we can offer a few dinners this summer and fall, but we won’t provide specifics and offer ticket sales until we know when the stay-at-home order will be lifted.

Special shout-outs this week to several of the retail stores in Chicago carrying our cheeses:

Beautiful Rind (cheese shop in Logan Square--BRAND NEW!!)

Carnival Foods (Lincoln Park and Oak Park locations)

Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks (home delivery service of local foods)

sweetgreen (River North and North & Clybourn locations only)

Whole Foods (Lincoln Park, Lakeview, South Loop and Streeterville locations)


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