This past weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting Stonewall Dairy in Cornwall Bridge, CT and Chubby Bunny Farm, in Falls Village, CT. They are the farms that provide the dairy and vegetables for my CSA. A group of about 30 of us (all CSA members), made the two hour plus drive from Manhattan, early Saturday morning.
At Stonewall Dairy, we first toured the milking area. We were able to see where the cows stand when they are milked as well as where the milk is stored and cooled and then bottled. Milk that the CSA receives on Tuesday afternoon has been milked Monday evening and Tuesday morning. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. We also got to meet three extremely cute dairy calves. During the tour we learned of the many safeguards that are in place to keep the milk from coming into contact with any harmful bacteria, something that is crucial when it comes to raw milk (which is unpasteurized). We also learned that there are strong movements to try to shut down Connecticut’s raw milk dairies, but the dairies themselves are putting up a good fight.
Next, we were able to see the chickens (Kosher Kings) that are raised for meat. In order to help cultivate the grass (chicken waste is high in nitrogen which enriches the soil), the chicken coop is moved daily so that the chickens are exposed to fresh ground. We also got to see the hens who lay the eggs that come to the CSA. They are free to roam an entire swath of land around the hen house. Some members got to pick up the fresh eggs from the laying berths along the side of the hen house.
(Click on any thumbnail above to see the full-sized photo)
After touring Stonewall, we all headed to Chubby Bunny Farm for a picnic lunch (catered by yours truly, more on that later). After lunch, we met Dan and Tracy who own and run the farm. We were able to see where all of our vegetables come from, from things we’ve already received like chard, salad mix, and broccoli, to things that are to come such as sweet corn, onions, and celery. Dan talked a lot about soil fertility and how his main goal at the farm is to rehabilitate the land. He said that in the six years that he has owned the farm, he has seen earthworms return to the soil in increasing numbers, which, for him, is an indicator that he is succeeding. One way in which he increases the fertility is through his use of cover crops, for example arugula, which we are able to see. Cover crops provide the soil with key nutrients and help replenish some of what is taken out by other crops. Dan also spoke about how he chooses what he wants to plant, then works out how he is going to make a profit; unlike large-scale organic farms, driven to plant monocultures of crops that are going to bring in the largest profit.
Towards the end of the tour we walked through the raspberry bushes and were allowed to pick and eat the slightly tart berries. As we were eating, I asked Beatrice (Dan and Tracy’s daughter) what her favorite thing was that her Daddy grew. She responded, “wild blackberries, but Daddy doesn’t grow them.” She then led Dave and me into some bushes behind the raspberries, where we sampled some of the wild blackberries. Delicious.
We ended the tour at the main barn, in front of which we were able to see the seedlings that are awaiting planting. It was a wonderful afternoon, spent learning important lessons about the food we eat.