Memorial Day has arrived, and summer is on its heels.
As we welcome the season’s extra daylight and warmer weather, we remember that summer has different meanings for everyone. To Kriemhild it may be all about farmer’s markets and butter making, yet for many youngsters we know that summer means summer camp.
There’s one summer camp in particular that we keep in mind all summer, and if you frequent to our self-service farm store, the Kriemhild Kupboard, you might know which one we’re always thinking of. As a triple-bottom-line company that equally values profits, planet, and people, we are always searching for ways to continue giving back into the communities that support us. To this end, 10% of the Kupboard’s profits are donated to the Fiver Children’s Foundation. Considering its geographic range and core values, Fiver Children’s Foundation felt like a perfect fit with our values.
Camp Fiver is a 129-acre refuge secluded in the woodlands of Poolville, NY. Every summer, the camp welcomes hundreds of children from underserved communities throughout New York City and Central New York to spend 2-4 weeks in a character building program. Camp Fiver offers your typical summer camp activities - swimming, boating, hiking, horseback riding - and at the same time campers develop skills through programs such as public speaking, health, community building, and environmental education.
Fiver’s Summer Camp program is just one part of the Fiver Children’s Foundation’s 10-year commitment to its attendees. The Foundation provides year round youth development through school programing and job training, serving approximately 500 children and their families each year. Most of the children attending Camp Fiver hail from communities in NYC, yet the Camp also draws in youths from other school districts as well, including those that are nearby Kriemhild
Apart from wanting to support such a successful foundation that shares our values, Kriemhild has a personal connection to the Fiver Children’s Foundation as well. Bruce and Nancy Rivington, co-owners of Kriemhild Dairy Farms and operators of Red Gate Farm (our Meadow Butter supplier), have a Camp Fiver alumni in their family. From age 10, Bruce and Nancy’s son Jamie Rivington attended Camp Fiver.
“I think that that's really good for all the kids that go because it gives you a different perspective from what you’re used to seeing where you are,” Jamie recalls. “I think my favorite thing about the camp is that as you come back year after year, you get to see the same groups of people that you started with and you all go through everything together.”
As of this publication, over $600 has been donated to Fiver Children’s Foundation through the Kriemhild Kupboard since it opened in the spring of 2016. We’re excited to continue nurturing our relationship with the Fiver Children’s Foundation, and we take pride in supporting the development of community-minded, environmentally-focused, courageous young people.
Place rhubarb, strawberries, and 3 tbsp of water in small sauce pan, bring heat up to medium high. Use potato masher to squish strawberries. Keep the mixture at low simmer until the rhubarb is softened - shouldn't be more than 5 minutes. Pour cooked mixture into blender and puree - if it's too tart, add 2 tbsp of raw honey. Transfer puree to freezer, chill for a half hour. Once mixture is cooled, whip crème fraîche, maple syrup, and vanilla extract for 2 minutes to make whipped cream. Fold the whipped cream gently into the strawberry rhubarb mixture, and pour into popsicle molds to freeze.
Stocking our farm store, the Kriemhild Kupboard, was an evolutionary process. There are so many great retail establishments in the surrounding area that carry equally-great local products (including our own), and we also set the goal of supporting our local farmers and food artisans. Although we wanted your shopping experience at the Kupboard to be familiar, we did not want it to feel redundant.
With that vision, we set out with the intent to build on what we make at Kriemhild and see where that road would take us. So, naturally, we started with your favorite - Meadow Butter.
Made with Kriemhild Butter
Butter may be our end-product, but for some of our wholesale customers, it’s just the beginning of their culinary creations.
We often get asked by our customers if we make flavored butter, which is a fair question. Although Kriemhild doesn’t, we know someone who does - and does so with our butter to boot. D’Arcy Butters is a food business just a skip and hop over in Hudson, NY who mixes our Meadow Butter with locally sourced herbs and spices to make unique flavored butters.
And flavored butter is not the only food where our butter acts as the main ingredient. Black and Bolyard, food crafters in Brooklyn, NY cook and caramelize our Meadow Butter, and then they infuse, season, and whip the final product to create a butter with intense, deep flavors that can be used in place of plain butter in almost any dish.
We admire these fellow food crafters for their creativity and commitment to wholesome, flavorful and nutrient dense food. Carrying their products in the Kriemhild Kupboard felt like a natural extension of our company values, with the additional positive of introducing our customers to different flavors and methods of applying butter to their meals.
Better with Butter
When you step into the Kupboard, it may appear at first glance that the selection of food we carry is incidental. Yet, if you look closely enough, you’ll find that the food collection is carefully curated to complement our Meadow Butter. For instance, Mosher Farm’s popcorn -- better with butter; Johnston’s Honey Bee Farm Honey -- make your own flavored butter; Eggs -- because if you’re still cooking your eggs in some sort of oil then you’re being severely deprived; even Fojo Coffee, which may seem a like an odd one out, but add a dab of unsalted butter and you just turned your cup of joe into an energy drink!
Keep it Crème Fraîche
Don’t worry, we didn’t forgot about your favorite crème fraîche. Many of the non-dairy foods we sell pair perfectly with our cultured cream. With some Mizrahi Manor Granola and Maple Syrup, crème fraîche can act as a perfect base for a parfait. We carry a wide variety of spice and cheesecake mixes from Halladay’s Harvest Barn for those who want to dip (pun definitely intended) their toes into the world of crème fraîche, or those seasoned crème consumers who want to whip up a quick dish. Grab a bag of Fruit of the Fungi dried Mushrooms and Flour City Pasta and you have yourself a fantastic creamy pasta entree.
There is an obvious theme that strikes most people when they visit the Kupboard: we stock many forms of dairy. Since we’re only able to produce Meadow Butter and Creme Fraiche at this time, we feel having the Kriemhild's Kupboard is a good opportunity to feature other regional dairy processors whose work complements our own, and perhaps share some attention with a few of the lesser-known producers or there.
For instance, Jones Family Farms Gelato is a dessert gaining traction in the area, and we can certainly understand why. They offer a great selection of unique flavors and even more interesting, they make their Gelato from the milk of multiple animals. You can choose whether to have flavors made in traditional cow milk gelato, or branch out into goat or sheep milk. There’s even Sorbetto for those who may enjoy a dairy-free treat.
You may have seen that we carry Grassy Cow cheese curds and East Hill Farms cheese because, first of all, they’re really good tasting cheeses, and secondly, we identify with them as a fellow small, grass-based dairy producers.
If you've stopped by a farmers market lately, you may learn that we connected with Trimona Organic Yogurt through our wonderful co-packer, Sunrise Family Farms. This bulgarian yogurt is made with the milk from several farms across Chenango County. We loved the its taste, its imaginative flavors, and its cultural roots. We felt it would be similar to a yogurt we would have liked to make. For those attending the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, Cazenovia Farmer’s Market, and the Pleasantville Farmer’s Market, we will be carrying Trimona Yogurt for sale alongside our own Meadow Butter and crème fraîche.
We’re hoping you’ll find that, with its selection of responsibly-made and regionally-sourced food, the Kupboard will be a place of culinary introduction or inspiration for those who drop in. If you stop to shop, you’ll definitely find something a little different than you would at a larger grocer, and a bit more unique than every other farm store. We searched far and wide to make sure that would be the case.
We reap what we sow.
Because of your (our customers’) patronage and word-of-mouth advertising over the years, Kriemhild is honored to have over 150 wholesale partners across New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (each of which replenish numerous super markets, restaurants, bakeries, and independant grocers), as well as many more retailers we personally deliver to. Because of you, we have proudly grown into a regional dairy presence.
And while we’re certainly thrilled to watch our wholesale business grow, we never want to lose sight of our stomping -- or rather, our “churning” grounds. While our seasonal Meadow Butter and our Crème Fraîche are carried in many stores throughout the northeast United States, and are also available for purchase online, there’s still something to be said for the level of familiarity between producer and consumer that comes from the intimacy of in-person-transactions. It’s one of the reasons why we, as well as many of you, enjoy attending farmer’s markets. We get to see you in person and experience the joy you have for the food we make, to answer your questions, and to hear your feedback firsthand.
Our farm store The Kriemhild Kupboard began as a natural extension of the familiarity that we embrace at farmers’ markets. There’s a sign along route 12B, not far from Red Gate Farm, our sole Meadow Butter supplier, that marks the site of our future creamery; the sign optimistically says “Kriemhild Creamery”. Until creamery construction begins, we use the site as inventory storage for future Meadow Butter and Crème Fraîche shipments, and also as our administrative headquarters. Yet, many of you had suggested that it would be optimal to be able to buy your butter directly from Kriemhild HQ.
So, with timber harvested from Red Gate Farm, and hard work from Amish carpenter Roman Troyer, the Kriemhild Kupboard was built last spring. Now, you can pick up not only our Meadow Butter and Crème Fraîche as you pass by, but there’s also a variety of dairy delights including but not limited to: cheese curds from the Grassy Cow, Trimona grass fed bulgarian yogurt, Black and Bolyard brown butter and, our team favorite, Jones Family Farm gelato. Indeed, the Kupboard has given us a great outlet not only to market our food, but the food from our favorite farmers and food artisans as well.
If you visit the Kupboard, you’ll notice that the store is completely unstaffed. We choose to run the store on the honor system, so customers are responsible for tallying their own total and making their own change (don’t worry, we provided a calculator and a note pad). We believe that you trust us to make your food, and so we’ll trust you to pay for it. Of course, we’re sure you recognize the risk in leaving money and product unattended, and then advertise that both are there. But so far the experience has been positive, and so our mutual trust continues.
We are starting to realize that the Kupboard doesn’t just offer convenience for locals, but a sense of community as well. It seems our efforts to be transparent and accountable are being echoed by our customers. For instance, Kupboard visitors are not required or instructed to write down what products they buy, but they often do us the courtesy. We’ve had weeks when the income from the Kupboard has been short, only to receive a check in the mail a few days later to square up an I.O.U left in the cash box. People are not just paying for their food, but going out of their way to perpetuate the honor system.
More consumers want to know how their food is made, to the point where they want to consume their food in the place where it is made. You want to eat bagels in bakeries, drink beer at breweries, and have lunch at butcher shops. You want to know who’s handling your food. And we get it. It’s not just about ensuring the quality of the food (although that is a significant part). It’s about feeling like a part of a community and offering your contribution to support good foodcraft.
We look forward to the day when you can stop by to enjoy a bite at the Kupboard and gaze upon our new and fully-functional creamery, reveling in the knowledge that the people who are making your food possess integrity and share your values. And while you sit there taking it all in and savoring the flavors, it hits you that as a customer you had a part in building an honor system that’s much, much more than just a simple farm store.
-- Ellen Fagan
Thanks to You...
We are all still glowing from the good feels from Calving Day this past weekend. We want to thank all who attended the event at Red Gate Farm, you all made it a great success. We estimate that over 300 people visited the farm, which is almost as many calves have been born this year!
We want to give a special thanks to our FFA volunteers who helped move calves and set-up before the event and also worked hard at our busy food vending station.
And yet another big thank you goes out to Mariah Fairbanks and Barb Lee who organized and ran the kids’ activity station which was...shall we say, quite popular? Speaking of popularity, another huge thanks goes out to Suzie Jones from Jones Family Farm for not only bringing and selling out of gelato, but for also taking charge at the food station.
Last, but absolutely not least, we need to thank the farmers, Nancy, Brian and Bruce Rivington, and the farm employees of Red Gate Farm who opened up their daily lives for us to explore and who gave their time to guide and educate us through our first Calving Day event.
A Closer Connection to Your Food.
Holding Calving Day was incredibly important to us. Calving is such an essential part of the production of our butter, and of the dairy industry in general, that we felt it was necessary to invite the public to bridge the gaps between farmer, processor and consumer. We were ecstatic that our invitation was met with such enthusiasm, curiosity, and engagement - from people of all ages, no less.
We had a good mix of people familiar with farm environments, and those who were having their first up close encounter with farm life. We realize a farm can pack a punch in visual, olfactory, auditory, and tactile stimulation. Yet, all our visitors seemed to revel in the experience and we appreciate everyone’s effort to be careful and courteous during their time at the farm.
What Did You Think?
But these are just our impressions and we’d love to hear more about how you experienced Calving Day. We’ve created a survey to help you share your reactions and thoughts about the event so we can build a better, more transparent producer/consumer relationship.
If you missed Calving Day, don’t worry. Red Gate Farm will be participating in Madison County’s Open Farm Day on Saturday, July 29th 2017. You’ll have another chance to visit the farm then and learn all about how our cows turn grass into butter.
And now the moment you’ve been waiting for…We’re Back at Farmer’s Markets!
On Saturday May 6th, we will be returning to the following farmer’s markets for the 2017 summer and fall season:
Hamilton Farmer’s Market
Saturdays, 8am until 1pm, May 6th to October 28th.
Just 3 miles down the road from our future creamery and our self serve farm store, the Kriemhild Kupboard, this market has a special spot in our heart as it is our one of our first markets we ever attended in Kriemhild history. We also love to share the space with so many of our other local food producers in the center of the beautiful village of Hamilton.
Cazenovia Farmer’s Market
Saturdays, 9am to 2pm, May 13th to October 28th.
Just around the corner from Cazenovia Lake, the Cazenovia Farmer’s Market is a smaller market that still offers a great diversity of local food and handmade crafts.
Oneida County Public Market
Saturdays 9am to 1pm, May to October.
The Oneida County Public Market is located at Utica’s Union Station in the historic Braggs Square. This market was established in 2011 as an economic development initiative with the objective of bringing a year-round produce market to downtown Utica. The second focus of this initiative was to revitalize the Railroad Express Agency wing of the Union Station, which is now in it’s second phase of renovation. The next section of interior space is being renovated to accommodate additional vendors and further expand this beautiful and historically rich community hub. Don’t let the train whistles surprise you!
CNY Regional Market
Saturdays, 7am-2pm, year-round. (until we run out of butter)
The CNY Regional Market is one of our more recent markets, and definitely the busiest. There are hundreds of vendors and an expansive variety of food and other goods. You can find us under the big green overhang, enjoying the open air of the D-Shed.
Every first and second Saturday of the month, 8:30am-1pm, April 1st to November 18th.
The Pleasantville Market is the the largest, year-round farmers market in Westchester. It’s a trek for us, but well worth it to be among the greatest farmers and food artisans the Hudson Valley has to offer. Also, Aba’s falafel stand is almost worth the trip itself.
Some New Things...
Yogurt for You
You asked, we listened. We are now partnering with Trimona Foods to offer organic, grass-fed, Bulgarian yogurt at the Cazenovia and Pleasantville Market. We were introduced to Trimona Foods through our co-packer, and already carry their yogurt at the Kriemhild Kupboard. We really enjoy their yogurt, which comes in plain and also multiple unconventional flavors such as blueberry lavender, raspberry coconut, and mango passion fruit. Being that we share multiple values, we felt that carrying Trimona yogurt was the next best thing to making our own.
Farmer’s Market Stand Makeover
We’re debuting our new farmer’s market stand this season. Our fleet of vendors (aka, all of us) are now equipped with some snazzy new set-ups for optimal farmers’ market aesthetic satisfaction. So, keep an eye open for us.
Calving day was a great kick-off to our production season and we’re all excited to see your smiling faces at our outdoor farmers markets. So, dig out your reusable bags and bask in the abundance of your local food hub.
When Being Yellow Bellied is a Good Thing…
We love the first day of butter making. There’s nothing like churning the first cream of the season into a 1200 pound mountain of smooth, lightly salted, very yellow butter. As we take a ceremonial first taste, we have to ask: why is spring butter so magical?
Milk is a complex mixture of fat, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and other miscellaneous constituents dispersed in water. Yet, the amount of these components vary based on the cow’s diet, the breed of cow, and a cow’s stage of lactation. Being a seasonal, grass-fed dairy is reflected in how our butter tastes and also how it changes over the course of the grazing season.
Spring butter has an unmistakable yellow glow. This color is affected by the increased amount of fresh grass in the cows’ diet during the spring as they start grazing. Fresh forage is bountiful in carotenoids, classes of mainly yellow, orange, or red fat-soluble pigments, which then manifests in our high fat butter. When ingested by a cow, one carotenoid in particular, beta-carotene, is converted to vitamin A. This results in a butter with a higher vitamin A content in the spring. Winter butter is produced primarily when the cows are on stored feed such as hay and hay ferment, so it is paler in comparison.
If you don’t notice a huge change of color in our butter, it’s ok. Many of the cows that produce our butter are mixes of breeds that naturally produce milk with a higher carotene content regardless of the season (i.e. Jerseys and Guernseys). Also, very often the cows at Red Gate Farm are grazing fresh forage well into November, and don’t stop milking until December. So, there is a small window in which we are creating “winter butter” from a mix of fresh forage and stored forage. Because of all of these variables, the color shift over the grazing season is subtle, gradual and not at all linear.
More than just the color, the texture of Meadow Butter changes over the season as well. Spring butter is perfectly spreadable, if not slightly leaky, while winter butter can be firmer, even appear to be somewhat brittle. This change reflects the saturation of milk fat in the butter. The presence of longer-chain saturated fatty acids increases the hardness of butter. Milk with a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acid content tends to create softer, runnier products.
During their outdoor grazing period, our cows’ milk is composed of lower saturated fatty acids and higher unsaturated fatty acid concentrations. During the winter, when the herd is fed stored forage, the reverse is true and our cream contains more saturated fats and less unsaturated fats. Saturated fat molecules are more uniform, and they form crystal structures more readily than unsaturated fats. These fat crystals yield a firmer product with a higher melting point. Many bakers consider the firmness of winter butter better for baking, finding that it makes it easier to work into a dough and bakes into perfect flaky pastries and crusts.
One final variable that affects Meadow Butter is you. Since, our butter can be frozen without compromising its taste or texture, if you choose to squirrel some away for the winter, then you can enjoy spring butter year-round. In fact, at Kriemhild we store our butter reserves in a commercial freezer between packing and farmer’s markets or wholesale shipments. This storability is also why we attempt to reserve enough to bridge the winter off-season, though (as our regular customers know) demand has historically outpaced our rate of butter-bank deposits -- which is another reason why we “run out” each winter.
Although we at Kriemhild Dairy rejoice the arrival of our spring butter, we celebrate the seasonal variation in dairy. With its cycles, subtleties, ebbs, and flows, we embrace all the nuance that seasonal dairy brings -- yes, even the off-season. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder (and hungrier), and experiencing seasonality garners true appreciation for the natural rhythms of our food system.
How about both?
April 22 is earth day, and per Earth Day tradition, many folks will feel inspired to plant a tree, and they should. In a time of drastically changing climate, planting trees is one way of combating the excess of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, trees and other plants pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into sugar, cellulose, and other carbon-containing carbohydrates that they use for nourishment and growth. This natural process is called carbon sequestration.
Although trees are famous for their carbon sequestering abilities, it is actually soil that is the largest terrestrial reservoir of carbon. Soils contain approximately 3/4 of the carbon pool on land — three times more than the amount stored in living plants and animals. This is great news, but, how does carbon come to be stored in soil? The answer: through plant roots. When plants convert CO2 into food for themselves, they are also creating food for microorganisms in the soil through their root exudate. These microorganisms eat and defecate, directly adding organic carbon to the soil and increasing its organic matter.
Trees are impressive exemplars of biomass, many of which grow taller and older than any human. However, in reality the greatest amount of carbon is sequestered in the soil of grazing lands. While trees store most of their carbon in vegetation that eventually dies and rots (re-releasing the carbon), carbon sequestered by grazing lands is more readily transferred into the soil itself, where it can be permanently stored (1). Among the types of agricultural land, grazing land has the highest ability to sequester carbon, partly because its soil is left intact as it is used. Although many crop farms now use practices to keep soil covered, carbon is lost to the atmosphere every time cropland soil is disturbed via tilling and in some cases harvesting. Our soils have lost more than half their carbon over the last 200 years due to common crop farming practices.
There is a long-held misconception that pasturing livestock only results in overgrazing and desertification of grasslands. However, if done with proper management, the use of grazing lands with domestic livestock can play a significant role in mitigating climate change. Researchers have estimated that it is possible for 29.5-110 million metric tons of carbon to be sequestered annually in the grazing lands in the United States (2).
Grass has evolved to be grazed. When grass is grazed by an herbivore, it stimulates the plant to begin a phase of rapid biomass production. This means more photosynthesis and thus more carbon sequestrated into the soil. In the absence of grazing, or well timed mechanical harvesting, grass merely grows to a certain maturity, becomes senescent and dies. Dead grass will decompose, but the amount of carbon it adds to soil is nowhere near the amount the cycle of grazing and regrowth can sequester. Nothing can mimic the natural interaction between plants and grazing animals.
When overgrazing occurs, the grass does not have enough time to regrow, so it drains the energy reserves in its roots. This results in shorter and shorter roots that are unable to hold the soil together or feed the resident microorganisms. Proper grazing management allows grass to recuperate after a calculated grazing period on a specific area by a certain number of animals. The livestock are moved rotationally around the pasture in paddocks, and may not re-visit a previous paddock for weeks at a time. This management is very healthy for the soils, and it is beneficial for the animals subsisting on them. There are several different types of management strategies that take a pasture’s rest and regrowth into consideration such as Management Intensive Rotational Grazing, Mob Grazing, and Holistic Grazing Management, to name a few. Well managed grazing land could rival the intensity of passive soil carbon accumulation of native ecosystems.
As a triple-bottom-line business that equally weights Environment, Community, and Profit in our operation, we at Kriemhild take great interest in the grazing management of our producers. We believe that grazing is important nutritionally for livestock animals and the food they produce, but it also has the ability to affect profound and far-reaching positive environmental impact. If all of the countries on earth committed to increasing their soil carbon by just 0.4% each year, the global community could store 75% of our annual industrial greenhouse emissions. The way that farmers choose to use and manage agricultural grazing lands, and the practices consumers support thru our purchases, can and do shape our global environment thru local ecology.
So, don’t hesitate to plant your tree on earth day. Just remember this as well: when you choose purchase our Meadow Butter or Crème Fraîche, you are choosing to support over 1500 acres of active soil carbon sequestration; and that’s one more way you can influence global change thru small, local action.
(1) Schuman, G.E., D.R. LeCain, J.D. Reeder, and J.A. Morgan. 2001. “Carbon Dynamics and Sequestration of a Mixed-Grass Prairie as Influenced by Grazing.” In Soil Carbon Sequestration and the Greenhouse Effect, special publication no. 57, edited by R. Lal, 67-75. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society of America.
(2) Follett, R.F., J.M. Kimble, and R. Lal. 2001. The Potential of U.S. Grazing Lands to Sequester Carbon and Mitigate the Greenhouse Effect. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers
The Kriemhild Dairy Farms office is a modest place, to say the least…
If you ever visited the office, you’d remember the line of barn boots that decorate the entryway next to a quaint washer/dryer set up and you’ve probably been greeted by one or two friendly pitbulls. Being that our headquarters is the basement of Red Gate’s herd manager, Brian Rivington, and only a few miles down the road from the farm, we were only slightly surprised to find a newborn calf next to the heater when we came in for our 9:30am meeting one morning. The calf was born on a day of particularly cruddy weather to a first-time mother. It became chilled and might not have survived if Brian had not found it and immediately intervened. A hot water bath and hair dryer session later, the little heifer calf, now known by the name “Rosebud”, became alert and responsive. We watched and cooed over our little visitor as we went about our office routines, and she was able to join the rest of the calves in the barn later that afternoon.
During calving season at Red Gate Farm, the calves are kept separately from the mothers. This is a common practice on many dairy farms, and is done for various reasons that are unique to each farmer. At Red Gate, the main reason is that their calves have a better survival rate when they are kept separately from the adult cows. Unlike beef cattle, dairy cows have generally been selected and bred to enhance milk production and not mothering abilities. Therefore, the mothering instincts in most dairy cows is unpredictable and it is often safer for the calf to be removed once it is born. Creating a designated Calf Barn is the best way the Rivingtons have found to avoid the calf being ignored, stepped on, crushed or even attacked by the mother or another cow in the herd. Separating calves from the herd also makes it easier control the calves’ environment, since newborn calves are much more susceptible to pathogen and environmental threats than an adult cow. Having a separate barn for the calves helps reduce the chances of them getting sick and is conducive to monitoring the calves’ health.
Some dairy farms choose to prioritize calves being left with their mothers because they find it to be a more effective management style for their calving systems. There is strong anecdotal evidence that calves that are raised this was have greater longevity. One of the benefits of their system is that their calves have the opportunity to drink fresh milk instead of milk replacer (As it happens, about 60% of dairy farms in the U.S. chose to feed milk replacer to their calves so that they can have close control of the calves’ nutrition and also save the harvest of fresh milk for sale.)
However, at Red Gate Farm, the Rivingtons find that their calves thrive the most from being fed fresh milk pooled from the entire herd. This means that at milking time, some of the fresh milk is diverted away from the commercial batch to fill a 120 gallon tank that is specifically set aside to feed calves.
After Red Gate’s calves are able to stand (shortly after birth), they are fed 2 liters of colostrum, the antibody and nutrient-dense first milk of a newly freshened cow. This feeding within the first few hours of life is critical for a newborn calf whose immune system will not completely develop until 1-2 months of age.
Another advantage of the Rivington’s system of separating calves at birth is ensuring that every calf gets enough colostrum soon enough, a necessity that is not confirmable if left up to the mothers. Also, when the calves are given their first drink, it is pooled colostrum from multiple fresh mothers. So, not only does each calf receive antibodies from their mother, but they also benefit from the combined immunities of a large chunk of the herd. On top of feeding their own calves, Red Gate’s cows are able to produce enough surplus colostrum to be one of a number of farms that supply a veterinary biotechnology company that manufactures commercial colostrum replacer and supplements for other farms’ calves and livestock.
Although the thought of calving in the spring may conjure up images of flowers and sunshine, we are all familiar with the reality that March and April weather in Upstate New York is... fickle. This is not good news for calves who, like our friend Rosebud, are vulnerable to colder temperatures. Calving is a wet process, and if the calves are not dried off properly on a cold day things can go downhill quickly.
At Red Gate, when calves are separated from the herd, they are temporarily kept in “hot boxes”, which are calf-sized wooden pens in a room with radiant heating in the floor (a luxury most of us humans don’t even have ourselves). Based on years of experience, the Rivington Family has figured out that radiant heated floor was the way to go for their farm. “The calves are already lying on the floor [as newborns], so the radiant heated floor heats them from the bottom up,” Nancy Rivington explains. The calves are kept in their cozy hot boxes for about 12 to 24 hours. While there, they receive their colostrum and their selenium supplement, their navel is dipped to prevent infections directly entering their bloodstream, and their ears are tagged so they can be accurately monitored.
Once a calf has had enough time to practice standing it is ready to be moved into a group pen with like-sized calves of similar ages. “We group them in groups of 18...we’ve never used hutches. Both Bruce and I feel that it helps the calf learn to get along with the others,” Nancy explains as she helped a calf get a grip on a group feeder full of fresh milk during a morning feeding. The calves are fed fresh mothers’ milk up until they are weaned at 10-12 weeks of age, slightly later than the norm of 6-8 weeks, and the Rivingtons are careful to keep a limit on how many calves are in a group to allow adequate space for them to grow without getting crowded.
If you ever follow along during a milk feeding in the calf barn, you’ll notice that only a small percentage of the time is actually spent feeding the 200 calves, and that the majority of the time is spent watching and observing. Anyone working in the calf barn knows the early signs of sick calf whether it’s as obvious as diarrhea or as subtle as taking a little too much time to get up for feeding. The entire calving process at Red Gate farm is designed to optimize calf health, so when a calf does fall ill, which happens despite the best management, it can receive the immediate individual attention it needs.
We feel privileged to have such an intimate connection and understanding of Red Gate Farm’s practices. It’s a special experience to witness firsthand the compassion that the Rivington Family and the farm workers have for their animals. Farmers are in a unique realm where their compassion and care for the animals serves their own human interests, beyond the obvious benefit to the animals themselves. For if the animals are not well cared for, a farm and its business cannot be truly sustainable.
Every farm has different challenges and advantages that affect their management decisions. Even at Kriemhild, as connected as we are to dairy production, we are fascinated to continuously learn how one way of management can serve one farm well, and yet that same practice may not work well at all on another. There is no one right way to farm. The methods a farmer uses are in consideration of their specific animals’ needs, what their specific land provides, what their specific customers value, and what their own specific values are. And the management style a farm uses this season is not necessarily what they have always done, nor what they will continue to do forever. A dynamic, changing spectrum of methods fall under the term “farming.” It truly is the oldest applied science, and the original performing art. We salute the creative, compassionate, scientific farmers at Red Gate Farm during their busiest and most reverent season: Spring Calving.
P.S. If you haven't already, check out our event page for Calving Day at Red Gate farm. You're invited!!
Why no Butter?
You may have recently found yourself asking this when at a local Farmer’s Market or a Kriemhild Dairy retail partner. We’re willing to bet this question has come to mind in a few of you because we’ve certainly been fielding a good many inquiries about our current Meadow Butter “shortage.” <--finger quotes implied
Our quick answer when asked is simply that our sole supplier for our Meadow Butter source milk, Red Gate Farm, is a seasonal dairy farm. Unlike farms that implement rotational breeding, Red Gate chooses to breed their cows together to follow nature’s rhythm of pasture grass growth. This choice means that the moms-to-be have been dried-off (a.k.a. not-milking during the final months of pregnancy) since December, and by extension, we do not yet have milk to make your favorite butter.
Although this short explanation gets the general point across, we would like to dig deeper on what commitment to being a seasonal farm really means: a holistic farm management choice that is far more subtle and intricate than just the result of a perceived butter-famine in the dead of every winter.
Milk, like all other food, has a season; not that many of us realize that nowadays. Before the introduction of grain feeding practices, farmers were keen to match a cow’s peak milk production to pasture quantity and quality. This meant breeding in the fall, and calving around March and April. This schedule closely mimics nature, as most wild grazing animals give birth in the spring when there is high food availability as they nurse their growing offspring.
A seasonal dairy is different from a year-round dairy in that all the cows are on the same breeding and birthing schedule. This results in the whole herd going dry for the same two month period in the winter to save up energy for birthing in the spring. On a year-round dairy, each cow still dries off for two months, but since the breeding and calving periods are staggered, different groups of cows go dry at separate times of the year, giving the illusion of seasonless food production.
Many year-round dairy farms find that grain or corn silage (a fermented feed made from corn stalks) work best in order to meet the cows’ high nutrient requirements during the winter milking. High quality stored pasture feeds like hay and hay ferment (haylage) can also meet winter production nutrition needs. Seasonal management lessens the reliance on grain, corn products, and stored forages.
The Rivington family have been managing their herd seasonally since 2005, only a few years after starting Red Gate Farm in Hamilton, NY. They chose to manage the farm seasonally for a few reasons.
Firstly, because of their commitment to grass-fed farm management, organizing their herd’s reproductive cycles around the the grazing season made practical sense; their cows are able graze on fresh, nutritions pasture when their nutrient requirements are the highest (during lactation), and then can maintain their body condition on stored forages throughout the winter when they are not milking and therefore have lower nutritional needs.
Another logistic factor that complemented seasonal production was their selection of an open-air milking parlor design. Red Gate Farm’s milking parlor is bright and breezy in the summer, providing ample ventilation (and vitamin D) for both bovines & humans during milking times. By extension, given the climate of Upstate NY, this design doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the most comfortable temperatures for humans or cows during the winter. Drying off the herd for two of the colder months of the year, again, works with nature and limits this issue.
In addition to providing their cows with the best nutrition, eliminating their need for grain, and compensating for their limited infrastructure, the final major factor supporting seasonally dairying is a human one: it offers the Rivington family a break from the twice-a-day (and sometimes thrice-a-day) milking for two months. With their daily farm work hours reduced from time-and-a-half down to part-time, the Rivington family can sleep full nights, have weekends off, reflect on the season, plan for the future, and most importantly recharge before going back at it for another 10 months straight.
In spite of these benefits, do not be deceived! Seasonal dairying is not all sunshine and blowing bubbles in your milk. The trade off for the two-month break during the winter is two epicly intense periods of breeding and calving. In order to dry off the whole herd at the same time, more the 300 cows must breed, conceive, and calve on a tight schedule. These two narrow windows of time leave very little room for mistakes, and only raise the stakes for this family farm. In order to increase the chances of having the herd bred within the same 60 day time span, all the cows must be at the pinnacle of health; wellness begets fertility. Nine months later, calving season consumes the daily and nightly, activities as the increasing number of calves need to be tagged, moved, and fed. This frantic pace can reach the extreme of one calf being born every hour. Although the breeding and calving periods are, shall we say intense, seasonal farming allows the Rivingtons to keep the pregnant cows’ and newborn calves’ wellbeing at the forefront of their focus and attention.
Since Meadow Butter stores well in the freezer with no effects to its quality or nutrition, we intend to supply it to you throughout the winter as we grow our production and when we bring on more dairy farmers as Kriemhild partners. But even then, our butter, like a meadow, will still be produced seasonally, and remains a seasonal product. So, you see, the “shortage” (finger quotes again) isn’t really a shortage, but a natural ebb between swells of abundance. We feel that highlighting this connection between the foods we love and the seasons of nature is essential to understanding what it means to be well nourished.
Spring is a sacred season on any farm. Produce farms can finally put their seeds in the warm ground, chicks are hatching from eggs, and livestock graze on lush spring pastures. At Red Gate Farm, spring arrives with a hundreds of babies mooing.
Located down the road from Kriemhild Dairy in Hamilton, NY, Red Gate Farm is our sole milk supplier for our seasonal Meadow Butter. It is the second-largest grazing dairy in New York State and is owned and run by the Rivington family who practice holistic grazing management for over more than 1,500 acres of land.
The typical dairy farm produces milk year-round, meaning that calves are born throughout the year on a staggered schedule. Being a seasonal dairy, Red Gate Farm goes about breeding and parturition differently. All the cows at Red Gate are bred in the same span of time and therefore give birth in one short period at the beginning of spring. As you can imagine, it is the busiest time of the year on the farm.
The dairy farm lingo for a cow that has given birth is “fresh”. At Red Gate Farm over 350 cows freshen over a two month period. At this time, the farm transitions to a maternity ward. It is the birth of the calves that begins the cows’ natural lactation which will peak through the bountiful grazing season and continue until December.
But for as busy and hectic as it is, the season specifically set aside for calving is also reverent. Its suddenness and newness is the ultimate acknowledgement of the fertility and abundance of new life that comes with the spring season.
As we all look forward to another season of fresh grass-fed Meadow Butter, we’re also just as excited to receive the newest additions to the herd. About 140 of the calves born this spring will be the future milking cows of Red Gate Farm, known by the term “heifers”, which is a pretty good gig as cow-jobs go.
So far, more 100 calves have been born this season. As the calf barn fills up with brand new bouncing baby bovines, we’re gearing up to introduce you to them.
On Saturday, April 29th, Red Gate Farm is hosting Calving Day. Whether or not you have visited the farm before, Calving Day will be a great time to make a trip. It will be a special event highlighting the natural cycle and processes that surround seasonal grass-fed dairy farming. We encourage anyone who wants to know more about where their food comes from to join us at the farm to celebrate the start of the season.
Until then, we’ll be keeping you abreast with our Calving Day COW-ntdown (we couldn’t help ourselves). As our Calving Day event approaches, we’ll be counting-down the days and adding-up the number calves we’ve welcomed to the farm. Stay tuned on social media & here on our website for the running total of fresh baby calves!
As the Butter Churns
Author: Ellen Fagan and Victoria Peila