Tapping a big demand for raw milk

Dutch Meadows Farm sees rapidly growing no-grain, raw milk sales business

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Paradise, Pennsylvania — It all started with Alvin and Elizabeth Stoltzfus shifting from commodity organic to raw milk sales.

Customers started asking for eggs and meat, so they started diversifying. Almost two decades later, Dutch Meadows Farm is marketing a wide range of products from their own farm and 25 others in the area through a variety of avenues including home delivery, shipping, pickup locations and a farm store.

Raw milk cheeses are offered, and Dutch Meadows sells a variety of pasteurized products including butter, ghee, cream, yogurt, kefir, sour cream and cottage cheese. Raw goat milk comes from another local farm.

Grassfed beef sales are strong, and other offerings include pastured chicken and turkey, milk-fed pastured pork, garden produce, baked goods, and fish. Almost all of the farms supplying Dutch Meadows are within 20 miles of the Stoltzfus dairy..

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Helmicks’ change places family first

Grazing sheep

Switch to multi-species grazing providing a better quality of life

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Greenville, West Virginia — Starting their own grass dairy from scratch was a dream come true for Aaron and Tara Helmick. But the dairy became a burden despite a decade of economic success.

The problem was a lack of quality of life. Aaron says he has very few memories of his second and third children before they were four years old because he was working so much that he was barely in the house.

Aaron and Tara started the low-input dairy as newlyweds in 2010 with an FSA loan and a 10-year lease on 470 acres. At first, prices were good and their seasonal management allowed a two-week vacation every year to recharge.

Then they were offered an organic contract at a good price that required a switch to year-round milking, so they made the transition in 2015. Milk prices dropped soon after, and the continuous milking made it hard to get away and even harder to maintain a healthy day-to-day life. They had doubled the herd in 2016, and were getting ready to double it again in 2018 when they realized something needed to change.

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Four simple tools for measuring progress

They don’t cost much, either

By Allen Williams

Interest in regenerative agriculture is growing exponentially. With the rapid rise in almost every conceivable input cost coupled with ongoing weather extremes, we are seeing more farmers and ranchers express significant interest. The flood of inquiries is often overwhelming.

This interest is coming not only from farmers and ranchers here in the U.S., but from farmers around the world. Weather extremes continue to be the norm. Drought in the Extreme to Exceptional categories continues in many areas in the western U.S., while others are experiencing flooding conditions.

For all of us, the time to reinvigorate our regenerative efforts is now. We simply cannot afford not to.

The question for all of us is: “Are we doing enough, both on our own farms and to persuade our neighbors to make positive changes?”

In order to know where we are and to track our forward progress, we need measurement tools that allow us to quickly, easily and simply make progress. Within Understanding Ag, we use four simple tools to monitor our soils and conditions on a routine basis.

Anyone can use these tools. Anyone can afford these tools. They do not require collecting samples and shipping to a laboratory and waiting days or weeks for results. They do not require ongoing expenditure.

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Regenerative ag aims to go mainstream

By Joel McNair

Organic and grassfed production practices have done great things for thousands of farmers and ranchers. Millions of consumers have benefited, too.

But looking at this from a broader perspective — and I think most organic and grassfed people do look at things this way — there’s a big problem here:

Very few acres are being farmed and ranched as organic and/or grassfed.

The things we want to achieve in terms of bettering people and the planet aren’t getting done. Indeed, by most reports the overall picture here is getting darker by the day.

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Catching up with some innovators

Karremans sharpen their focus at Reverence Farms

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Saxapahaw, NC — At Reverence Farms, (see Graze article, March 2019) they’re not just building soil and dairy genetics. They’re building community.

Whether it’s former dairymen in the area who pitch in to help, graziers across the country calling with questions, customers who come for pastured meats, or the employees who keep the farm moving, for Hubert Karreman and Suzanne Nelson Karreman it’s about the people more than anything else.

Honing in on the farm’s purpose has meant scaling back some of the farm’s diverse enterprises. Hue and Suzanne closed their restaurant, scaled back the pastured hogs and sheep, quit raising meat birds, stopped raising as many veal calves, and pivoted from raw milk sales to a creamery market.

The shifts were made for a number of reasons, including feeling they were spread too thin, difficulties in convincing customers to pay what it took to give restaurant help a living wage, and a concern that catering to vegetarian restaurant customers by using vegetable oils was compromising their vision of offering the healthier animal fats that are served at the Karremans’ own family table.

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Diving deep into grassfed health benefits

Allen Williams

By Allen Williams

While those of us involved in the grassfed world are very aware that the meats we produce are different than those those coming from grain-fed animals, most of us don’t fully comprehend the breadth of those differences.

This month, I want to summarize what’s been discovered by a large number of research projects over a period of many years. As you’ll see, this goes far beyond the differences in levels of CLAs and omega-3 fatty acids that are commonly understood by grassfed producers.

Hopefully this information can be of use when you’re talking with your customers.

New research performed by Stephan Van Vliet of Utah State University along with the Bionutrient Food Association, found that in comparison to grain-fed, grass-finishing increases a wide variety of health-promoting compounds in meat while improving animal health.

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