Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scottish Ayrshire Cows Homies!

We have always let our phans know that our milk comes from a single herd of cows owned by an Amish farmer in Lancaster. It was delicious milk that we were really happy with. Our farmer was not happy with the trek into Philadelphia and we were not happy with the last minute calls stating that he did not feel like having his driver drive in. We happily parted ways, but I was a bit panicked at the time. Where am I going to get the high quality grass fed milk that I needed?!?! I refused to sacrifice our quality.

What does one do in Philly when these things happen!? You call Ann Karlen of the Fair Food Project. I really like Ann. She is not a crazy hippie that yells at you for not buying locally, she shaves her legs (not necessary, but just a fact), her knowledge of locally grown food is unsurpassed, and she makes a delicious fruit tart. Of course I called her days before Thanksgiving and instead of completely ignoring me so she could get out all those heritage turkeys and vegetables, she introduced me to a fantastic farmer. He is a Mennonite (in his words a "recovering Mennonite") who is a third generation dairy farmer and vet.

John and I drove out to his farm, which is about an hour outside of Philly. As we pulled up the long dirt drive, I noted how adorable the place looked with its blue silos and its fields speckled with cows. City Girl, "OoooooO! Cows and a barn!" They had a lot of land to graze. It was a really cold day and I wondered why the cows were not inside; it had to be in the forties - Aren't they cold? Where is this guy! He calls himself a vet! (City Girl)

As we pulled up, a man with a baby strapped to his chest via baby sling and wool cap emerges from the barn.. smiling: "You must be Stephanie!" We shake hands and I introduce him to John and the tour begins. We check out his retail area where you can purchase raw milk, cheese, and eggs and then go into the barn. It is clean and smells good, like grass and earth. Cats follow us and he talks about the milking process and how he assures cleanliness in the milk. Suddenly I notice that there is a baby cow in the feeding trough! I jumped. (City Girl) He told me that he was born on Thanksgiving night and his kids named him "Drumstick." He said that the babies love to sleep in tight spaces at first. Maia, his daughter, starts to fuss because she wants us to continue walking.

We move out to the fields - vast fields. The cows are grazing and glancing in our direction. He introduces me to Cleopatra and Rosie and Helen; a single ribbon holds them in the fields. I ask why they are not inside and he states that Ayrshire Cows prefer freezing temps. They are walking around with big udders of hot milk. As a once lactating living thing, I can relate (Sorry, I know some of you just shuttered). An adorable, ridiculously tall, mop-haired, pimply teenager approaches and starts to complain that it is the third time today that Claire is in the corn fields. He tells him not to worry and let her go; he will get her later. He explains how they are exclusively fed grass, but he grows "snacks" for them in the corn field. It is not corn exactly, but a tall grass that produces little corn. He chops it and lets it ferment a bit. They love it and it is just a snack. During the summer he cuts the grass and bales it, so when the grass stops growing in the winter and there is little to graze, they have grass. That being said, we move to where he stores the bales of grass; it smells wonderful, earthy, and the air is heavy.

We visit the teenage girls, who are not yet ready to breed. They are hanging out gossiping; I meet Isabella, Roxie, and Blanca, and they lick my hand. Their tongues are rough and long; it surprises me. He is not sure, but he thinks he has around 50 cows. They all have names: names like Dixie, Kitkat, Skittles, and Krum. Of course the occasional male is born. He gives them names, "although it kills me;" they graze separately and have a nice short life. They are veal. My stomach pitches, but it is what it is. He talks about the veal industry and how it should be, which is how he does it - humanely raised.

We tour the "dry" milk pasture and check out his horses and some chickens. He has a monster vegetable garden and that's it. I ask about the beautiful silos and what he stores there. "Nothing. They are just for show." He is serious. Back in the sixties a "sly farm salesmen" told them that they could increase their milk production and make a ton of money by feeding them grain. They bought the silos and boy did their cows make more milk. They also were sick and went lame. Lame? Why? Because they were not walking and eating. It is healthy for them to forage. Ayrshire cows are meant to walk and eat and do not do as well standing and eating grain. Grain is not good for their stomachs. "That's how they evolved or as my uncle would say 'created'" - See? Reformed. They make delicious milk with grass and although they are much more expensive and require much more work to keep, the milk and their lovely temperament makes them worth it. I have to agree!

And yes, the cows you see here produce the milk in our gelato that you are eating right now!


  1. whoa...I think I have a crush on a cow

  2. Wait, do the cows shave their legs too!?

  3. wow, i love Ayrshire cow so much. cant wait to have my farm too.