Cheers to 20 Years! (Part 1)
January 2023 marks 20 years since what you know today as Crosswinds Farm & Creamery officially began! Time sure flies, when you’re having fun and when you’re not – it’s been an evolution for sure. But do you know the story of how the family bringing the milk, cheese, and meat you enjoy each week came to be? Throughout the coming year, we’re going to bring it to life for you right here!
First, let me introduce myself – I’m Sarah! I’m the face you usually see in our market booth and the driving force behind this crazy adventure of a life our family has. One of our customers recently asked “you farm, you make cheese, you go to markets, you homeschool – you’re not really busy, are you?” Nope, not really! Those things are my life in a nutshell right now.
I grew up in the town of Catskill, on the Hudson River in eastern NY, where my family has farmed since 1680. How did I get here?
Looking back, it’s been a string of serendipitous connections that have made all the difference.
I fell in love with all things farming (especially big brown cows) earlier than I can remember. Greene County is not a strong agricultural area; there were only 2 working farms in my school district at the time. I was often singled out as a farm kid, but it was always something I was proud of. When I was 6, the whole 1st grade toured our farm, with the current county Dairy Princess assisting. I declared that someday I would be a dairy princess too!
The highlight of my summers growing up was showing our cows at county and state fairs, which is where I met other kids who were like me & loved farming just as much! At 16, I was the first Dairy Princess our county had had in 10 years. On a whim, I entered a scholarship competition with an interview component. One of the fellow competitors I met there would later be my college roommate, and the event connected me to the 4H dairy quiz bowl program in a neighboring county. We earned a trip to the state competition – held at Cornell – which also included a behind-the-scenes tour from a current student, which made me feel at home at a place that would otherwise have overwhelmed me.
Dairy quiz bowl took me to national competitions in Louisville and Columbus, all the while learning, and meeting more people whose life revolved around agriculture. After high school, I chose to come to Cornell for Animal Science, and then had an opportunity to complete an MS in Farm Business Management as well. In high school, my exposure to “business” was the DECA club which sold pencils and candy in the school store. At the time, I had no interest in selling pencils – the irony of now owning a retail store! When I got to Cornell, I was exposed to the world that is business and business management and realized that I loved working with numbers as much as animals. I chose to finish my masters because I knew once I left school to farm, I would never go back.
After teen years full of extracurricular activities (but NO basketball) and working on the farm, I was bored at college. So I took crazy course loads, worked multiple jobs, and tried not to get into too much trouble! I don’t think I ever seriously considered a career other than farming, though at the time I certainly did not foresee what our business would look like today. I defended my master’s thesis in December 2002 and started milking my own cows in January 2003!
In our existing beef & pork CSA renewal emails, which I originally drafted in 2020, I close with the sentence “Join us and give yourselves the peace of mind of knowing that our family will be feeding yours, no matter what craziness the rest of 2020 (and beyond) brings!” At the end of 2021, I considered changing that phrase, thinking that the “craziness” of the world had calmed quite a bit. But now it’s only been a few short months and yet we find ourselves with more uncertainty than ever before. The need for a strong local food supply does not diminish.
Our “why” as farmers is to nourish our community, both nutritionally & spiritually, with the abundance that our farm generates.
We are excited to offer a growing diversity of products, with new space (land & processing) available to add even more. We want to continue to create & grow connections with the people we are feeding.
We are wrangling with the best means to make all of this available, to fill your needs & desires and to create a financially stable framework for our farm’s future. Our family has been farming for over 300 years, and we farm today with the intention to continue for another 300.
Which brings us to the concept of a whole diet, year round, free choice CSA membership model.
It’s a big concept. What might that look like? Let me lay out some possibilities with the intention of gathering your feedback on how you’d like to see it work.
We would offer our members free choice access to everything our farm produces – and YOU choose what you take each week. Your share could include our 100% grassfed dairy products, grassfed beef & pastured pork, and pastured eggs. We could also offer seasonal vegetables, fruits, chicken, maple syrup, and grains/breads produced on our farm or sourced from other like-minded local farms.
You in turn make a commitment to eating from one place, wholly & seasonally. You are committing to supporting a small, sustainable family farm. Can we completely replace the grocery store? No. But the majority of your diet would be produced on our farm or farms nearby.
What would the logistics look like? A weekly window to come to the farm in Rock Stream and choose your meals for the week from our existing inventory. A standing offer as farm members to enjoy the natural beauty of the farm, put your hands to work in the soil if you’d like, visit the animals. Picking up at the farm opens up the possibility of offering raw milk in the share (in addition to our pasteurized options).
You could also place a weekly pre-order, which we would then pack and deliver to your home or neighborhood.
Pickup at the Ithaca or Trumansburg Farmers Markets or at our farm in Ovid is also possible.
Pricing would be a flat monthly fee per person for all members of your household, with discounted rates for children and a sliding scale for those who need it. Payment could be made annually, quarterly, or monthly.
Please take a few moments to give us feedback on this concept, whether you are interested or equally important, not interested. If this is an idea you’d like us to move forward with, we need to know!
Sarah & Charlie, Lyle & Hannah
No doubts, Charlie is the pro when it comes to cooking steaks at our house! I'm better than I once was, thanks to his guidance, but I leave the grill to him!
It might be 40 outside today, but the forecast is looking mighty chilly for New Year's Eve! Fear not - you can still master steak on your cooktop!
Here are Charlie's secrets - follow them & you can make the perfect steak every time :
Steak Doneness Temps:
Medium Rare 135
Medium Well 150
Please don't ever cook a steak to well done....your mouth will thank you!
It seems our world relies more and more on connectivity via the internet. We farm because we value connections, but not those involving technology.
Connections we have to our animals and land.
Connections with the rhythms of life and weather and seasons that cycle endlessly.
Connections with our heritage and ancestors who have farmed before us.
Direct, strong connections with our customers who understand the importance of knowing the hands that have raised & crafted the food on their tables.
Connections with our children whom we share this life with.
These are connections that will transcend all the unrest our world is facing. They are connections that will prevail when many may take them for granted. Our life's work is to provide food for our community. We invite you to share in the power that strengthening our local food network creates for our future - all of our futures.
We ask that you spread the word. Share your connection to us with your neighbor, your co-worker, your family member. Give them the opportunity to make these connections and source their nourishment direct from a farming family.
Above all, food direct from the farm Just. Tastes. Better.
Honey Garlic Grilled Pork Chops
1 1/4 C honey
1/4 C soy sauce
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground black pepper
6 14oz pork chops
Bring honey, soy sauce and garlic to a boil in small saucepan, reduce heat to simmer for 5 min, until garlic is cooked. Remove from heat & whisk in black pepper. Set aside. Lightly salt chops.
Heat grill to 450. Sear pork chops on all sides, turning frequently to develop a crust on all surfaces, about 7 minutes total. Lower the heat and cook through, continuing to turn, 15-20 minutes more. Cook until internal temp is 140. Brush the chops with honey garlic glaze, and serve with additional glaze.
Recipe adapted from foodandwine.com.
For Sale: Used Sunshine
For Sale: Used SunshineUsed sunshine, huh? What the heck am I talking about?
Our farm philosophy is fairly simple: Use plants to capture solar energy. Use livestock to turn human-inedible plants into tasty, nutrient dense, dairy & meat products. Really, the stars of this system are the microbes that exist both in the soil and produce nitrogen, and in the cows' rumens (stomachs) that turn plant fibers into protein.
Beyond this basic philosophy are a million logistical details that influence how the process is completed. Our management focuses on minimizing inputs onto the farm as much as possible. For the cows, that's only salt and minerals including selenium, which our soil in the Northeast is deficient in. We do need to harvest a good portion of our acres for winter feeding because of the layout of our farm, so there are inputs required to do that.
Pigs are not ruminants; they have a simple stomach that functions the same as yours and mine. They don't have the benefit of rumen bacteria and therefore need more essential amino acids supplied in their diet. Their diet includes grain which is an input to our farm; we include excess milk & whey from our dairy which reduces the amount of grain required.
Time on the tractor gives me a chance to catch up on podcasts, and lately I've been binge listening to "Working Cows", a podcast focused on all things related to regenerative farming & ranching with livestock. I believe it was Steve Kenyon in episode 95 that said farmers and ranchers are one of two things: used sunshine salesmen, or earth miners.
If you're not taking full advantage of soil and rumen biology, you're either depleting soil nutrient reserves or need to add nutrients in the form of fertilizers, most of which are petroleum derived. We'd prefer to manage our soils, grass, and livestock in ways that allow us to focus on being used sunshine salesmen! We think you can taste the difference, as well as reaping the health benefits of nutrient dense foods!
Tis the season for Pork Carnitas – the Mexican version of pulled pork! Our pork shoulder roasts are perfect for this tasty dish and if you've never tried them you're missing out! Our roasts have a thick fat cap which will render out as you’re cooking it low & slow, keeping the meat moist & juicy. Traditional carnitas are deep fried in lard, but if you use a cooking vessel close to the size of your roast, you can accomplish the same outcome without adding any lard. I love this explanation behind the science of this cooking technique! (PS We also offer rendered lard if you'd like to try the authentic technique!)
The key to carnitas is crisping up the pork after shredding it – you can do this in a frying pan or under the broiler. Serve carnitas as tacos, enchiladas, burritos, over rice or on a salad. They store well refrigerated or frozen (before crisping) and used as needed!
Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are links to recipes I can recommend: this one uses an oven, and this one offers options for slow cooker or insta pot! Enjoy!
Rich As Sam
Meet Sam. Sam was born five years ago, the day my grandfather Sam passed away at 96 years young.
My grandpa Sam was born in 1918 and walked to a one room schoolhouse. He provided for his family on the farm, having asked (told?) my grandmother (the new college-educated county extension agent from the city) to marry him on their first date.
He was a Brown Swiss lover, and much to the rest of my family’s irritation and my gratitude, he lit the fire for Brown Swiss in me at an early age & supported it as I grew up. We made an annual pilgrimage to the Eastern Breeders Sale every year together, and more than once went halves on a purchase to expand my cow herd. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his influence on my life.
At his memorial service, our family & friends told stories of my grandfather’s “riches,” despite his modest life as a farmer. So Sam the cow, sired by Richard, was registered as “Crosswinds Rich As Sam”. She actually descends from a maternal line that moved here from Catskill with me, and has my grandfather’s breeding, and it is an “S” named family. This irony of her birthday touches me daily, as I’m a believer in things happening for a reason.
As a rule, our cows don’t kick when we milk. They have no reason to. Sam is a miserable exception. She’s always been a bit, shall we say, flighty. But since she calved most recently, she has been absolutely awful in the parlor. Downright violent. Reaching into her wingspan is putting your life in danger. We have tricks and tools to prevent a cow from kicking, but they barely slow her down. Some days it is a two person operation (which is completely opposite of our philosophy here, with everything set up to flow with one body).
A normal soul would have sent her for a career change long ago. But every day, somehow I have managed to milk her. We are truly blessed to live the life we love, farming. We witness the rhythm of the seasons and the cycles of new life, growth, and harvest that accompany them, and are proud to share the products of our labors with you, our customers. The riches of farm life have been even more poignant in the last year. But there are certainly times that cause you to question your sanity.
I’m sure her attitude is intended to tell me something. I haven’t decided if the message is to persevere when the going gets rough, or to quit while you’re ahead.
One thing is for sure: Sam is lucky that the stubborn gene is as dominant in the brown cow farmer as it is in the big brown cows!
Local Meat Buying Guide
Is sourcing your meat from a local farm that ethically raises animals important to you? Are you overwhelmed by the options and not sure what will work best for you? Let me help you sort this out!
First, answer these questions:
1. How much meat does my household prepare on a daily/weekly/monthly basis?
Every household has unique habits and needs! Determining both how many meals per week typically include meat, and how much meat at each meal, will give you a rough idea how long a bulk purchase might last you. Are you cooking for 1 or 2, or 6 or 8? And are those teenagers (aka bottomless pits) or seniors with smaller appetites? Does one pound of ground beef make one meal plus leftovers for a second, or will you need two pounds to get everyone fed tonight?
2. How much freezer space can I dedicate to meat storage?
The freezer of a typical fridge/freezer can easily hold any of our CSA shares, or one of our 20lb bundles, in addition to a “normal” variety of other frozen items. If you’d like to try ordering a ¼, ½ or whole animal, more freezer space is necessary. Chest/upright freezers can be a great investment, especially if you also want to store fresh fruits or produce harvested in season. You can often find them used on Craigslist or Marketplace, though I’m wary of any that are more than 10 years old (likely limited lifespan and less energy efficient). Try to choose a size freezer that you will fill at least once a year – freezers are most efficient when they are full!
Another option is to rent freezer space as needed. The Ithaca Meat Locker (http://ccetompkins.org/agriculture/buy-local/local-meats/the-meat-locker) offers lockable bins for $3-5/month. Our local grocery store also offers the same service – check into what might be available in your community!
3. How fussy is my household about the cuts of meat we cook with?
Do you only like to cook with your tried & true favorite cuts, or are you open to trying new things? Both our CSA shares and 20 lb bundles include an element of surprise – you do not have complete control over the items you receive. Both DO include staples including ground beef, bacon, and sausage, but the balance of the order will vary. They’re a great opportunity to experiment, perhaps learn a new technique for a new recipe, and push outside your comfort zone on occasion! You can also plan your meals around the meat cuts you receive, rather than having to plan everything from a blank slate.
In contrast, each ¼, ½ or whole animal purchase is cut specifically for your order, so you can choose exactly the items you receive. However, you receive the cuts in proportion to how many are in one animal. There’s only so much bacon & so many steaks in each animal. Your order will also include parts like the shoulder and rump. There’s flexibility in how these parts are processed – they can be cut as roasts, less common steaks, or ground for more sausage/ground beef. You need to be willing to cook with all of the cuts (in some form) or you’ll soon find you’ve used all of the bacon and still have 7/8 of a pig in your freezer!
4. Can my budget handle larger, infrequent outlays for stock-ups, or do I need to purchase on a weekly/monthly basis?
Ordering a ¼, ½ or whole animal is a one-time purchase that will range from $325 to $2400, but because you’re buying a large volume it’s the most cost effective way to purchase our meats. We offer these options every 2-3 months, so you can plan your purchase in advance, perhaps to coincide with a time that you have more cash available (like your tax return!) . We also gladly accept EBT or credit cards.
Teaming up with a friend, neighbor, or family member is another great option for capturing bulk pricing while making the cash outlay and freezer space requirement smaller.
Our CSA shares are a 6 month commitment, which can be paid up front or in monthly installments, making it easier to budget evenly. Our freezer bundles are a one-time purchase with no ongoing commitment, and can be ordered anytime!
Just how much is a ½ pig or ¼ beef?
A ½ pig is roughly 60 lb of meat for your freezer, and might look like 6 lb bacon, 15 lb ham/ham steaks, 10 lb shoulder roasts/steaks, 15 lb chops/loin roasts, 8 lb sausage, 3 lb ribs, 1 lb hocks, 2 lb heart/liver (or more cuts can be ground for more sausage). You’ll need 3-4 cubic feet of freezer space for a 1/2 pig. Double these numbers for a whole pig.
Our beef vary more in size from animal to animal but 150lb is a typical hanging weight for a ¼ for our farm. This might be 35 lb ground beef and/or patties, 10 lb chuck roasts/steaks, 5 lb stew beef, 5 lb soup bones, 4 lb brisket, 10 lb premium steaks, 5 lb sirloin, 10 lb round/rump roasts/steaks, 4 lb short ribs, 4 lb organs. (This is just an example – you choose how it’s cut!) You’ll need about 5 cubic feet of freezer space for a ¼. Double for a ½, double again for a whole beef!
To summarize: if you have freezer space and the ability to make larger, less frequent purchases, stocking up with a ¼, ½ or whole animal is the most cost effective way to purchase local meat. You can place a reservation for pork or beef today! If your freezer space is limiting, our monthly CSA shares divy that purchase up into smaller deliveries. Or, if you’d prefer to not make a monthly commitment, you can order a 20lb bundle whenever it’s convenient, or you can pick and choose by the cut from our current inventory! Hopefully these questions have helped you think about your households’ eating & buying habits and will help you to make the meat purchases that suit you best!
So Close Yet So Far...
I have a confession – we could care less about football in this house. It would have been cool to see Buffalo make it all the way, just because they’re in our backyard and have been SO FAR from it for so long, but otherwise….The first Sunday of February is just another day.
But football game or not, classic comfort food to warm up from winter weather IS key to survival in this house. Mac n cheese, meatloaf, and chili all make appearances. We make them in large quantities and then feast on the leftovers or toss some in the freezer for quick meals on busy nights. This favorite recipe for Beef Roll Mozzarella adds an Italian twist on a classic meatloaf. Let us know what you think!
(You can stock up on our ground beef at a great price here!)
Beef Roll Mozzarella
1 ½ lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 egg, beaten
½ C dry bread crumbs
4 oz chopped mushrooms
Liquid from canned mushrooms or ½ C water
½ green pepper, chopped
1 ½ C shredded mozzarella
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
Combine beef with next 5 ingredients. Add enough water to mushroom liquid to make ½ C. Add to meat mixture with mushrooms and peppers, mix well. Line 9x13 pan with wax paper. Press meat mixture out flat on top of paper in pan. Sprinkle cheese on meat, leaving one border free of cheese. Roll meat with cheese as you would for a jelly roll, removing paper as you roll. Place seam side down in same pan. Spread ½ of tomato sauce over the roll. Cover with foil & bake at 375 for 35 min. Remove foil, spread on remaining sauce, bake 15 minutes more.
I'm half of the Crosswinds farmer duo bringing you farm fresh cheeses, beef, and pork from the heart of the Finger Lakes! Stay tuned for our daily adventures growing a family & a farm, and food for your table. We welcome your questions & comments, but please keep them respectful! For the latest updates, please follow Crosswinds Farm & Creamery on Facebook or Instagram!