For those with a bovine sense of humor, here’s a cow joke for you: Why did the cow jump over the moon? The farmer had cold hands.
If you’re a dairy farmer, you’ve probably heard that one before. And there are enough dairy farmers in this state to get a chuckle out of it. In Connecticut, there is a $2 billion agriculture industry with dairy farmers a good percentage of it.
Some of those dairy farmers decided to go into business together. The Farmer’s Cow, based in Lebanon, has been spreading the word about the value of supporting your local dairy farmer.
Four years ago, six family-owned farms joined together to provide milk for parts of New York and Massachusetts and most of Connecticut. Between them, they milk 2,300 cows on nearly 7,000 acres of land. They’ve been so successful with milk they decided to try other products. They have half and half, eggs, and cider. In November, they launched their newest product: Heavy cream. With the holidays upon us, it’s just in the nick of time.
Some, however, have already sampled the heavy cream as a holiday treat. The Unquowa School in Fairfield got the jump on The Farmer’s Cow early on.
“Unquowa has been with us since Day One,” said Robin Chesmer, Managing Director at The Farmer’s Cow. “They buy our milk because they liked our concept.” Last month, the school made a Thanksgiving meal made in part by The Farmer’s Cow product.
But heavy cream is only one stop on their way to a world of lactose domination. The company is looking to include farm-fresh ice cream as part of their upcoming product line. With an April launch, they are planning for six flavors. Besides the usual kinds like chocolate and vanilla, they’re thinking a little outside the box with chocolate mint chip and cookies and cream.
The company gladly sings its own praise (literally, if you count their commercial jingles readily available on their web site for your listening pleasure). They boast of their local heritage and their hormone-free approach to dairy farming.
But that’s not the only way the company is conscientious. They try to use the most energy efficient farm equipment. (In the case of one of the six farms, they bought a methane digester to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.) The cows are fed grass and corn grown on the farms that have been fertilized by the cows’ manure. (Certainly, one way to recycle.) They take care in the quality of their soil and water.
But their main focus has been on preserving the land and wildlife habitat. In fact, Chesmer is on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the state’s farmland. According to the CFT web site, we’re losing farmland at an alarming rate. Eight thousand acres per year are lost to housing developments. At this point, we’ve lost 21% of our farmland and, if this continues, we’ll have nothing left in just two generations. What’s more, farms require less than 50 cents in town services for every dollar they generate in local taxes. Residential development costs towns more than one dollar for every dollar of revenue generated.
Chesmer and the other farmers apart of The Farmer’s Cow have that bumper sticker mentality: No Farm. No Food. “We need to preserve it for future generations,” he said. He continued by saying The Farmer’s Cow offers tours in the summer and early fall. “Not many people get the chance to visit what they eat,” he added.
The Farmer’s Cow likes to emphasize the connection between the cow and the milk carton. For one, they try to be more traditional in their approach to pasteurizing. The liquid is heated to 165 degrees, effectively killing any bacteria. The milk you buy in the supermarket is “ultra-pasteurized,” which means the liquid has been brought up to well over 200 degrees. Retailers love that ultra-pasteurized means a longer shelf-life. But to Chesmer and his fellow farmers, it just takes away from the taste.
“It takes the milk out of the milk,” said Chesmer. “It takes away from the flavor and the goodness of what milk is all about.”
If you’re looking to find out what their milk is all about, the company lists where consumers find it. The Farmer’s Cow is available in Westport at A&J’s Farmstand, Whole Foods Market, and The Fresh Market, which recently opened in October. In Fairfield, Shaw’s on Black Rock Turnpike and Stop & Shop on Kings Highway Cutoff also carry it. Stop & Shop sells it in their Bridgeport location on North Main Street and their Kings Highway Cutoff location in Fairfield. You can also find a carton of The Farmer’s Cow at Plasko Farms in Trumbull.
Images courtesy of The Farmer’s Cow.