Buy Fresh Buy Local Article
This article appeared in a Buy Fresh Buy Local Newsletter
When you enter John and Amanda’s store to buy raw milk, pasture raised eggs or meat you will notice windows into the barn where you may see cows being milked, if you catch them at right time of day. Keepsake farm is home to twenty-four milking Jerseys. Milking takes place in the morning, but the rest of the time you won’t see them in the barn, they are out on pasture. “I only keep them in the barn if it is really cold”, John told me. That is best for the animals and best for him. The barn stays a lot cleaner if the cows are outside. Even on cold days the cows prefer to go outside. If it is below 25 degrees they stay inside at night, and then they start to get grouchy.
John and Amanda are first generation farmers. A year and a half ago they bought the farm and it has taken a lot of work to get it to where it is now. Buildings were taken down. Other buildings were built, including the brand new store added onto the front of the barn. The barn was an empty building when they started and now it is fully outfitted with milking equipment and even a cheese processing unit.
They may be new, but John and Amanda bring a lot of expertise to the farm. Amanda is a veterinarian and John has worked in the feed industry for years. They know how to keep their animals healthy and how to treat them naturally when there is a problem. It is all about prevention John says. For example a lot of cows have trouble going lame. But John’s cows are rarely on concrete, a surface slippery and difficult for a cow. They are on pasture all the time except for the short trip of 60 feet across the milking parlor.
Their customers are happy to have them in the neighborhood. When I was there a gentleman stopped in with a familiar story. He used to drink raw milk as a child. When he entered school and had milk in the school cafeteria he went home and told his mother that the milk was spoiled. His mother had to patiently explain that the milk was not bad, just different. He hasn’t been able to get a hold of raw milk for years, he told us, as he bought a gallon. John and Amanda sell everything they produce right on the farm for now. And they seem to go through it faster than they can produce it. At the beginning of the season they had what they thought was 8 months worth of beef and pork in the freezer and it sold in two.
The price may be a little higher than the grocery store, but so is the quality. You can see just by looking at a jug of milk that has the cream level way down the jug handle. That is because the cows are on pasture and hay. In general the customers like it. They like the fact that they can come in and talk with John. And don’t worry John is happy to chat.
“It’s all about quality and sanitation. We don’t spare any expense when it comes to those two things,” John tells me. This is especially when it comes to raw milk. In order to keep your raw milk permit you are tested once a month for fecal coliforms and other bacteria? His counts have always been so low that they don’t even show up on the chart– below the chart.
One way that they keep the quality up is maintaining good nutrition. And the key is grass. John’s 35 acre pasture is broken into sections and the cows are moved through quickly enough to keep the grass growing and healthy. In the winter the cows are fed good quality hay – alfalfa and orchard grass in order to give them enough protein and nutrition.