Endings and Beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. -Seneca

In our lives, we experience a lot of beginnings. And  a lot of endings. Not always is one tied to the other. Sometimes things just end. Door closed. That’s it. Other times doors will shut, but as the cliché goes, another will open. We peek through the open door: curious, scared, and anxious about a new opportunity. Take it? Or not. Your choice.

For Cliff and I, we chose to pull a door shut. But as soon as we did, new door after new door opened, and we just knew we had to walk through them. Moving from one beginning’s end to a whole new beginning. And that’s what’s gotten us at the precipice of a grand new adventure.

A few weeks ago, I talked about letting our herd of Jersey cows go. This past week, our Holstein herd- the 200 cows, heifers, and calves that have been OURS since we got married and bought them from Cliff’s dad in 2002, were sold. These girls have been our identity as farmers for 15 years! Such a mix of emotions.

Dairy farmers know that there’s good(ish) years, and there’s lean years. Dairy farmers are used to riding out the lean years while waiting for the good years. That gets old. Our farm is pretty established, we were doing okay on the other things that Cliff was working at, so we decided to look about the possibility of selling the cows, hard as it may be, and run our farm without the dairy cows.

Pulling a door shut.

While we were wresting with this decision, we heard of a dairy for sale in Maryland, about 15 miles south of us. The owners are a couple who wanted to retire, but they have built a wonderful, successful business with their dairy. They hated to see all their hard work disappear. We could see the opportunity they’ve created and didn’t want that to disappear, either! Could we take over? Could we run the business they’ve established? I’ve always had a pie-in-the-sky dream for our farm at home. I wanted to do farm tours, agro-tourism, and sell our product direct to the customer. But our location just wasn’t right. The start-up and building a brand would take years. The dairy that was for sale? Ice cream store. Corn maze. School tours. On-farm milk bottling. Home delivery routes. Brand identity with loyal customers.

Door opening.

Now we had another decision to make! Would we throw ourselves into taking over and running this new business? So much to think about, plan for, talk through, stress over, and pray about! While wrestling with THIS decision, Cliff’s brother informed us that HE wanted to buy our cows! He would take ownership of the cows, but they’d get to stay right here! What a relief to know our girls would get to stay right here with us. He’d rent the barn from us, buy feed from us, and other than ownership of the cows, not much would change here at all!

Door opening.

After countless emails, phone calls, texts, and a million other details I won’t bore you with, it soon became clear to us this was something we couldn’t ignore. One door shut for us, but after more opened, and we received confirmation from so many sources, we made a deal with the owners and are moving forward towards making a dream come true.

So here it is… our big adventure:

We partnered with friends of ours that we’ve worked with over the years, and as of March 1st, the four of us will be the new owners of Kilby Cream in Rising Sun, MD. !!!!

We’re working with the owners, and they really have great employees on board, so we’re hoping for a smooth transition. Be sure to give us a follow on the Kilby Cream Facebook page to keep up with things happening on the farm, at the store, and with the home delivery routes.

Here is the Kilby newsletter about the change.

We are so excited to work with the Kilbys through this transition, and look forward to continuing what the Kilby family started. As Mr. Kilby is so fond of saying: “Maryland is the land of opportunity!” 🙂

 

 

 

 

“When you are through changing, you are through.”

I’ve been putting off this post because I couldn’t think of a clever way to write it. I couldn’t think of a way, without writing a novel, to convey all that’s been going on here the last few months. Through a few posts over the next few weeks, I’ll try to catch everyone up to speed about the changes happening here at Compass Farms.

There’s been a lot going on here behind the scenes the past few months. All the little changes- some you’ll notice, some you won’t- are all helping us work towards our big new adventure!

The first thing that someone might have noticed because of this is the unavailability of our cheese. The past few years, we’ve done a lot of work promoting, selling, (and sampling!!) the cheese made from the milk from our herd of Jersey cows. We had it in a few retail locations, had a home-delivery service carrying it, and met a lot of great people at farm markets. There were a few reasons behind the decision to discontinue the cheese, but our next new adventure is the biggest reason.

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Carmen with the Jerseys, soon after we brought them all home.

For the past year, we’ve had an employee who took great care of our Jersey herd. He cared for them as if they were his own, and we trusted him with the herd of cute, big brown eyed beauties. This young man had a great opportunity to start milking cows at his home farm, just about 20 miles north of us. Because of our transition, it just made perfect sense for us to sell our herd to him so he could move them to his home farm. It’s pretty bittersweet. We’ve only had the herd for a few years, but in that time, we came to love them, and were so proud of the healthy, happy herd we had put together. BUT, it was necessary that we didn’t have an extra herd of cows to care for, so all in all, it was a great fit- we know our cows are going to stay together as a herd, and we know someone who sincerely cares about our girls will be taking care of them.

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NERVOUSCITED. Nervous-excited. With two horse-crazy girls in the house, I’ve watched my share of My Little Pony. Pinky Pie was able to perfectly sum up how I’ve been feeling the last few months.

So- there’s post number one about our changes! As we transition to our next step, we’ll keep you filled in. And if you’re disappointed about not being able to get your hands on our cheese anymore… don’t worry! If everything happens like we think it will, you’ll soon be able to get your hands on some more dairy-goodness from yours truly!

Recipes!

The Wednesday Jennersville Farmers’ Market is winding down. We had a lot of fun, met a lot of great people, and made some new friends- from the market owners, to the other great vendors, and our wonderful customers. So for something special, instead of serving samples of all our cheese like I usually do, for yesterday’s market I decided to feature two flavors in two different cheese spreads. I used newest flavor, Cheddar with Old Bay, and a customer favorite, Hot Pepper Jack. I came up with two great cheese spread recipes using these two cheeses. If you make either of these, I’d love to hear how they turned out! Or, If you’ve made another great dip or spread recipe that uses Compass Farms cheese, let us know below! Maybe we’ll feature it at an event!

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Mmm! Which one will YOU like best?

CHESAPEAKE SHRIMP PATE
1/2 lb. cooked, peeled shrimp
1/4 lb. shredded Compass Farms Cheddar with Old Bay (I used a little extra!)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. softened butter
1/4 c. chopped onion (use a little less if your onion is super-strong!)
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
pepper

Combine the shrimp and onions in a food processor; process briefly so they still have coarse texture. Add the shredded cheese, cream, lemon juice and mustard; process briefly. Add butter and salt; process till smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pep it up! Pimento Cheese Spread
1/3 cup cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded Compass Farms Hot Pepper Jack (I’m pretty sure I added extra!)
1/4 cup diced pimentos

Beat cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in shredded cheese and pimentos. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Overshoot Day 2015

 

Today is Overshoot Day. Today is the day we’ve used up all of our earth’s natural resources for 2015. For the rest of this year, we are living off of resources borrowed from our future generations.

What does that mean on the farm? Will we make any big changes because of this? What will we do differently today to make overshoot day a thing of the past?

Nothing.

That’s right. We’re not planning to make any drastic changes because of this.

Here’s why:

We’re already doing all we can to take care of our little corner of the world. Responsible farmers are all doing everything in their power to farm with conservation and good stewardship in mind. We work with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and our local Conservation District to develop and implement a plan that details for us the best practices for our farm. Here are some of the things we’re doing on our farm to work towards making Overshoot Day a thing of the past:

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Baby corn coming up in rows. You can still see last year’s stubble and organic matter on the soil surface.

NO-TILL FARMING

Remember how you used to see a farmer out plowing a field to prep for spring planting? You won’t see that here. We never turn up our soil anymore. This protects it from erosion during a heavy rain. We plant right through the layer of organic matter that is built up from years and years of no-till farming- something Cliff’s dad started and was very passionate about. By keeping the soil on the farm, we’re keeping our nutrients right where we need them to be- in the ground, accessible for the crops we’re growing.

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The fence keeps pastured animals from getting into the stream.

STREAMBANK FENCING

Animals on our farm are never allowed to wallow, wade, or stand in our waterways.

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L to R: cornfield, grass strip, riparian buffer, stream

RIPARIAN BUFFER STRIPS

We have a little stream that wanders its way through the farm. It is designated a high-quality stream, so we’re making all the efforts we can to keep it that way. On each side of the stream, there is a buffer zone- a zone we don’t touch- at all. This allows for natural vegetation and shrubs to grow and act as a filter to keep out any run off that might get close to the stream. On the outside of these vegetated strips are grass strips. We mow these grass strips two or three times per year, but they never receive any type of fertilizer- just another way to protect our pristine stream.

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Looking down a grassed waterway.

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Looking up a grassed waterway. It goes between and to the right of the cornfields.

GRASSED WATERWAYS

Our farm it situated right on the side of a hill, which makes managing rainwater during a heavy storm a little more difficult. We need to allow the heavy rainwater to still run down hill, but without digging a gutter and creating more erosion as it goes. Grassed waterways are a solution to this problem. We give up productive farm ground to set aside waterways so the water has a designated route to the stream.

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A sampling of some native wildflowers.

BEE POLLINATOR HABITAT

Bees play a sometimes unseen, but important role in agriculture. We’ve planted an area of our farm in to native wildflowers that provide the pollen and nectar these busy bees need.

Our methane digester plays a big part in helping our farm survive with less dependence on natural resources. Here are a few ways our digester, and the better manure management from it, are helping our environment:

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OUR OWN ELECTRICITY

We use methane captured from animal manure to run a 200kW generator. It makes enough electric for our two farms- plus over 100 additional neighboring homes!

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The black cover is puffed up because it’s collecting methane gas under there.

REDUCED GREENHOUSE GAS

The methane we’re capturing is 20 times more harmful to the environment than CO2. The amount we’re capturing reduces our farm’s carbon footprint by an amount that’s equivalent to removing over 200 cars from the road! Imagine what that would do for our atmosphere is digesters were more common!!

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    Liquid manure after going through the digester-all ready to make corn big and hay green!

    BETTER NUTRIENT/MANURE MANAGEMENT

When all of our cows’ manure goes through the digester, it makes the nitrogen in the manure more available for the plant- which means when we fertilize our fields with this manure, there is quicker uptake of nutrients by the plant, which means less chance for nitrogen run-off.

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Receiving a load of food waste.

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Fruit salad, anyone?

LANDFILL DIVERSION

The bacteria ‘bugs’ in our digester love to eat anything organic! We’ve started receiving old produce from large chain grocery stores to add to the mix we feed the digester. This is a win-win. We use the produce to amp up gas production of the digester, so we can spin out more kW with our generator, and we can divert this organic matter that would otherwise be heading to a landfill.

So, yeah, Overshoot Day is real, and let’s face it, a little scary. But small actions by farmers AND consumers can make a big difference in how Overshoot Day will be seen in the future. Rather than a day to fret and wring our hands in worry over our grandchildren’s planet, let’s make it a day to make others aware of how their small actions can all work towards pushing Overshoot Day back a little further each year until it’s a thing of the past.

Officially official!

license We had an exiting week- a lot of things we were waiting on happened all at once!

The renovation of our tack room/snowmobile shed into a cheese shack is complete. The second-hand cooler I got is plugged in and WORKING! We got inspected and received the license to sell our cheese. Our cheese is done aging, cut and wrapped. The labels we designed came back from the printer. To an outsider, it might almost look like we know what we’re doing. I assure you, this is not the case. 😉

When we got our first batch of cheese back and cut into it for the first time, I have to tell you, we were a bit nervous. What were we going to do with ALL THIS CHEESE if it tasted bad? How in the world would we get rid of over 1000 pounds of yucky cheese? Well, we shouldn’t have worried. It was GOOD! An experienced cheese-maker with access to super-rich Jersey milk is certainly a recipe for success. If we’re not careful, we’re going to eat all of our profits! (That’s alright… it would probably be worth it!)

We are planning for this Saturday to be the first day we’re selling out of our new farm stand. As of now, we’ll have our seven varieties of cheese, and a few dozen eggs from our pastured chickens. Maybe we’re not quite as put together as I’d like to be for our first day, but that’s okay. We’d love to see you on Saturday! Come out to the farm, try some samples, and take some of our delicious cheese home with you! We’ll be here to help you till 6:00.

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Wrapped, labeled, ready to go!

Find us at 245 Springhill Rd., Kirkwood, PA 17536.

Here we go!

Welcome to the internet, Compass Farms.

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While Cliff would be quite content to farm without any internet disturbance (save stalking my FB a few times throughout the day) I am beginning to see the importance of letting others have a peek into what we do around here. I get a chance to talk to a very diverse group of people through our children’s school, our church, my Crossfit box, old friends reconnected via FB, Twitter and Instagram contacts. It’s becoming apparent that not as many people know what goes on on our farm as I had first imagined.

Last fall someone suggested I start a Facebook page for our farm. Some posts got pretty good response, but still, having a FB page isn’t the same as having a blog or a website. So that’s what I intend to do here. I may put up a few blog posts now and then, but mostly, this will be a place for people to come and find out more about Compass Farms, and see what Cliff and Andrea are up to now!