It’s fitting that it’s pouring rain as I finally sit down to write this, after 6 weeks without any significant rainfall. The rain is violent; so very welcome yet coming hard and strong enough to cause damage. It was a cold, soaking rain last fall on the day we laid my father to rest.
I had a grand plan of monthly installments in 2023 sharing the history of our 20 year farming adventure, and the story of my family’s farm that laid the foundation before that. Here we are in June, and only one installment has been completed. We are in a season of life that is hard work, and lots of it, right now, and as much as I should spend more time communicating - jobs like building fence, making cheese, making hay, raising kids, always seem to fill my days to the brim.
I had decided back in January that the next installment would tell the story of my parents and the debt of gratitude that I owe them, and to be honest I knew it would not be easy to put down on paper and that has not helped my procrastination. I’m sorry that my dad is not here for me to say thank you and tell him how much I’ve appreciated the life I was granted, but I want to take the opportunity to give my mom this recognition while I can.
My dad passed away unexpectedly last fall at 68. He was largely healthy his entire life, so it came as a shock. For me it’s been a reminder to cherish everyday – yet note the above season of work that we’re in – which has led to a lot of personal conflict this year as we struggle to get to a place where work is balanced with actual living – heck, anytime for living would be an improvement right now. So many factors impact this situation – a topic for another day.
My dad spent his whole life farming. From him I get my work ethic, my eyes for opportunities and new enterprises. My family’s farm has survived in an increasingly urban area because it was diversified – milk, beef, pork, feeder pigs, hay, straw, shavings, hauling, seed sales, baling twine, fence posts, used equipment dealing and more – all of these have contributed over the years. He graduated from SUNY Cobleskill in 1974, driving a cattle truck to and from school weekly, hauling sawdust or animals on his trips back and forth. Years later, I spent many hours riding along on hay deliveries (labor in exchange for ice cream). I learned to take in all the scenery while driving, keeping it between the lines while observing everything around you, and always able to find my way by landmarks.
It’s not fair to give my father all the credit by any means – my mother is the one who has kept it all organized. Dealing with the peculiar customers and the bookkeeping. The one who hauled us and supported us as kids at all of our school, church and 4H activities, and led and organized all of those events. Who taught us to cook, can, bake, sew, craft, garden and so much more. Who packed for and stayed with us at the fairs and scrubbed our white show clothes clean. Who runs for parts or seed deliveries or has delivered calves and piglets in the trunk of the car. And now cherishes the role of grandma and is here whenever we need her, to share all of this knowledge with the next generation. She is and has been just as much the heart of the family farm as my father.
My parents have lead by example and taught us to work hard, to do your best and what’s right, to earn respect through a job well done. Both have been leaders in their community. I can only hope to someday earn the same level of love, respect and appreciation that I hold for them.
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!
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.
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!
This year, online ordering & shipment has become commonplace for nearly everyone. You can order just about anything and have it delivered to your doorstep within a few days.
This week, a highly anticipated delivery arrived, but not in an Amazon box. You know you’re a farmer when the most exciting delivery in months arrives in a container like this:
This is a special shipping container charged with liquid nitrogen and used to ship frozen bull semen. It keeps the semen safely frozen at -320⁰ F. UPS drops it in our driveway, we transfer the semen to our liquid nitrogen storage tank, and then the shipper is returned & reused.
We’ve worked hard to reduce purchased inputs in our business, but semen is one of the necessities. Every cow needs to deliver a calf in order to start producing milk. Ideally, they have a calf once a year. And each of these pregnancies requires a semen source. We choose to not keep any bulls on the farm, mostly due to the safety risk, but also because we want to choose the best genetics available to improve our herd.
There are not a lot of other Brown Swiss herds, at least not compared to Holsteins or Jerseys (the two most popular breeds). By purchasing frozen semen, we can utilize bulls from the best herds in the US and Europe, from which we could not feasibly purchase a live bull.
So, about three times a year, this farmer spends a lot of time pouring over catalogs and selecting the best matches for our ladies, just like a fantasy football team. Yep, bulls have stats just like pro athletes. Some are all around all-stars, while others excel in certain traits that we might want to focus on improving.
Most of our semen is ordered from one Wisconsin-based distributer specializing in Brown Swiss, who has been shipping directly to our farm for years. If you’re curious, check them out at brownswiss.com!
This week’s delivery included bulls with names like Spark, Kade, Powerball, Juke & Kingsman. Within a year we will have their calves running around, and in about 3 years their daughters will be producing the milk in your cheese. One small delivery will have a longterm impact on our farm!
There really is no limit to what can be delivered to your door!
This week was Charlie’s birthday. Birthdays, when you farm, are like most every other anniversary, holiday or special occasion – not much different than any other day. He spent an enjoyable day (his words!) making a big dent in our manure spreading project.
Lyle & my mission was to make Dad his favorite treat – rhubarb pie. We also needed to load a semi-trailer with hay that we’d sold.
The truck appeared just as the pie was ready to go into the oven – perfect timing. You can load a tractor trailer with 44 round bales in less than 50 minutes, right?
Turns out you can, but when the phone alarm went off I didn’t rush inside. Our oven always seems to cook a bit slower than the recipe requires, so I figured a few extra minutes would be a safe bet.
Got the load strapped & headed out the driveway, then went in with Lyle to check the pie. Of course the oven picked today to work super efficiently & the pie was definitely overdone. Not totally ruined, but the crust edges were on the verge of black.
Charlie was a good sport & pronounced it “not that bad”. Lesson learned…pay attention to the alarm!
Pie crust is a big deal in both Charlie & my families…today I’m sharing my mom’s recipe. You can fill it with rhubarb if you have it in the freezer – or since we’re at the peak of apple season, go for Maple Apple!
If you ever want feedback on your pie, our household will gladly sample!
Sarah, Charlie, Lyle & Hannah
DONNA'S PIE CRUST
5 C flour
2 1/2 C shortening
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 egg, beaten plus enough ice water to total 3/4 C
Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with pastry blender. Moisten with egg & water. Mixture will be sticky so use lots of flour to roll out dough. Makes approximately six 9" pieces. Roll out on plastic sheet or between 2 pieces of waxed paper.
MAPLE APPLE PIE
~5 C apple slices
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 C Morning Glory Maple cheese
Pastry for double 9" pie crust
Bring cheese to room temperature. Line 9" pie pan with bottom crust. Combine dry ingredients & sprinkle 2 Tbsp over bottom of crust. Add rest of mixture to apples & cheese, stir. Turn into crust & cover with lattice top (cut top pastry into 1" strips and weave into lattice). Bake at 425 for 15 min, then reduce temp to 325 and bake 45 min longer or until nicely browned.
Ground beef is a staple in our freezer, pulled out for quick & tasty family meals all year long. Here are 3 of our favorite recipes - give them a try when you're looking to change it up from the usual burgers or meatloaf! Our 100% grass-fed ground beef is lean but flavorful, making it an economical protein source boasting heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and CLA. We have plenty available - let us know if you'd like to place an order for your family's freezer!
SWEDISH MEATBALLS Servings: 4-6
3 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C seasoned dry bread crumbs
½ c fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley (or 1 Tbsp dried parsley)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
GRAVY: 4 Tbsp flour
2 ½ C beef consommé or broth
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 C milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
12 oz medium egg noodles, cooked
¼ C butter
3Tbsp fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley (or1/2 Tbsp dried parsley)
BEEF & POTATO MOUSSAKA Servings: 6-8
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ C water
1 can (6oz) tomato paste
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dried mint (optional)
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp pepper
¼ C butter
¼ C flour
2 C milk
4 eggs, beaten
½ C Parmesan cheese, grated
½ tsp salt
5 medium potatoes, peeled & sliced
GROUND BEEF & CAULIFLOWER HASH Servings: 4
2 ½ + C frozen cauliflower (defrosted & drained) OR fresh cauliflower OR summer squash, chopped
½ C bell pepper, chopped
¼ C onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef or sausage
2 C shredded cheese (Goblin, sharp cheddar, mozzarella – or a mixture)
¾ tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
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!