• Great Grains

    June 29, 2010

    Another one of the organic dairy farms that we visited was the Beidler Family Farm in Randolph Center, Vermont. The Beidlers own 35 cows who’s milk goes to Stonyfield, Organic Valley or Cabot, who cooperatively makes Organic Valley Vermont Cheddar Cheese. These are already some of my favorite brands, so now I really want to support them! :-D

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    Brent and Regina Beidler purchased their farm about 12 years ago. From the beginning, their goal was to make the farm sustainable, so they transitioned to organic right away. The Beidlers were one of the first five farmers to sign on with Organic Valley to pool their milk for the company.

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    Within minutes of our arrival, the milk truck arrived to pick up the Beidler’s tank, which holds about 2,100 pounds of milk. The truck visits the Beidler’s farm every other day to collect the milk. In order to fill the 6,000 gallon truck, the truck stops at 12 other locals farms.

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    Each year, the Beidlers produce about 56,000 gallons of milk!

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    Before taking the Beidler’s milk from their tank, the “milkman” took a sample to test for levels of bacteria, fat, protein, etc. Part of his job is to make sure that it is up to standard before he adds it to the tank to mix with the other farms’ milk.

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    Once the milk truck left, we sat down to lunch with the Regina, Brent, and their daughter, Erin.

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    We enjoyed a fresh, colorful spread for lunch.

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    We had turkey and roast beef wraps.

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    And fruit and pasta salad.

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    My plate:

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    During lunch, we chatted with Regina and Brent about their farm. Their main goal is to make their business sustainable on all fronts, so they’re planning to add solar panels to provide electricity to both their farm and home and they’re growing some small grains for the cows and to sell locally.

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    In my previous post, I mentioned that grazing benefits cows because they absorb all of the vitamins and minerals from the pasture. For this reason, many of the organic farmers that we met, including the Beidlers, try to extend the grazing time for their cows. Basically, the thinking is the more time spent in pasture, the healthier the animals and the more nutrition their milk. The Beidlers said that they spend more money on their dogs’ vet bills than they do their cows!

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    The Beidlers gave us a tour of their grain fields, which include mustard seed, spelt, oats, wheat, clover, among other grains. They also grow turnips, so the cows can graze well into the late fall. Turnips are hearty vegetables with big leaves, so they survive the colder temperatures and enable to the cows to graze even longer. So, this means they need less grain in their diet, which lowers costs for farmers.

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    In the warmer months, the Beidlers cows pretty much eat all pasture with a little grain thrown in (5 pounds or less per day per cow). The grain typically includes corn and barley. In the northeast, most organic dairy farmers feed their cows this way. In other regions of the country, organic dairy cows eat a lot more alfalfa, in addition to pasture. In the colder months, cows in the northeast eat more grain (5-15 pounds per day per cow), “haylage” (chopped fermented hay), and round bails of hay (longer steamed hay).

    Conventional dairy cows eat corn silage (chopped fermented corn), which is sometimes mixed with haylage and grain. The grain for these cows is usually made with corn and soy. Conventional cows don’t typically have access to pasture, so they eat this diet year round.

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    The Beidlers grow 6 acres (12 tons) of red fife wheat, which is great for baking. Brent told us that a patch of wheat the size of a kitchen table top makes about 1 loaf of bread. That’s a lot of bread!

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    In the video below, we asked Brent and Regina why consumers should buy organic. I love their responses! Regina also talks a little about the USDA organic standards.

    Speaking of USDA standards, Regina and Brent went through the USDA audit to become certified organic just last week. The audit at their farm lasted 3-4 hours and required the completion of about 50 pages of paperwork. They said it took them an entire day to fill it out!

    The USDA has about 100 accrediting agencies around the country. Vermont Organic Farmers, part of NOFA who we visited on Friday afternoon, certifies all of the organic farmers in Vermont. The cost to become certified varies, but it is based on the gross sales of the farm. So, for instance, if the farm makes less than $2,500 per year, they only pay $300 to be certified. Earl Fournier mentioned that he recently paid $1,000 to be certified, so his gross income is likely in the $200,000 – $500,000 range. (Keep in mind all of the expenses!!) Many of the farms that we visited were probably in this same range.

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    The Beidlers didn’t let us leave their farm empty-handed. They gave each of us a huge bag of their spelt flour! I’m so excited to bake with it! :-D

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    P.S. I posted my breakfast over on Trading Up Downtown this morning! ;-)

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    { 48 comments… read them below or add one }

    Heather @ Side of Sneakers June 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I’m in awe of how much you were able to see & learn in just a weekend– incredible!!

    Reply

    Nichole June 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

    This just looks breathtaking. I can’t get over the land. The cow pics have been awesome, feeling like I know a moo, I mean a few of them:)

    Everything feels so homey. Unbelievable home cooking.

    Guess those pups are living a good life too!

    Reply

    Marilou @ Mostly Healthy June 29, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I love the views of field as much as views of oceans ;)

    I’ll never look agt a cow the same way now :D

    Reply

    Evan Thomas June 29, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Looks like another fun barm stormed!

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    Jessica @ How Sweet June 29, 2010 at 9:39 am

    So beautiful. The entire trip just looks like such an amazing experience.

    Reply

    Estela @ Weekly Bite June 29, 2010 at 9:41 am

    What an incredible experience!! I love all the pics!

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    Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen) June 29, 2010 at 9:46 am

    What a great learning experience. It makes you feel good eating their products when you know it is personal!

    Reply

    Kara @ MyWellnest June 29, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I’m loving your recap of the farms in my state! Great info, thanks for sharing!!!!!

    Reply

    Teri [a foodie stays fit] June 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I’m loving your recaps! I buy a lot of Organic Valley and Stonyfield products and now feel even better about purchasing their brands. I knew organic was better but I always kind of thought that they just fed them organic diets but the cows were still locked up in barns without daylight and crammed like conventional cows. I LOVE LOVE LOVE seeing that they are out in huge fields!! YAY!!

    Reply

    kathleen June 29, 2010 at 9:49 am

    So LOVING all the cows! One of my favorite animals! How fun! You get to have some great adventures!

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    Jenny June 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Your trip to Vermont is such a great opportunity! I hope I get to have experinves like yours in my future.

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    Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) June 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

    What a great experience! It’s definitely influencing me to buy organic milk products whenever I can. :D

    Reply

    Hannah June 29, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Oh my gosh, those photos of the fields of yellow are magnificent!!! Beautiful shots, Tina, and lovely info too, of course!

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    Michelle June 29, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Very interesting! I wonder how grain-feeding dairy cows compares to the concept of grass-fed cows that have been raised for beef.

    I’m still definitely wanting to go organic now. I love seeing cows roaming pastures!

    Reply

    Shannon @ Before Sunrise June 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

    What a cool experience! You have learned so much and I’m so grateful you have brought it to your readers so we can enjoy learning as well :)

    Reply

    Emilyeatsclean June 29, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Ohhh I bet that spelt flour is gonna be delicious!! Thanks for sharing all this great info with us, too!

    Reply

    Laura Jane June 29, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Love the pictures of the farm! I really had no idea how it all worked.

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    Lindsay @ The Ketchup Diaries June 29, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I LOVE this awareness on organic farming. It’s truly spectacular, Tina!

    Reply

    Heather (Heather's Dish) June 29, 2010 at 10:06 am

    oh my goodness you guys are getting fed WELL! i love the details, too…there are so many things i don’t know about farms and how they work!

    Reply

    Deb June 29, 2010 at 10:10 am

    What a awesome trip! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply

    Autumn @ Good Eats Girl June 29, 2010 at 10:13 am

    This is incredible! You learned so much in a weekend and I am loving learning about everything through you!

    Reply

    Lisa @ Early Morning Run June 29, 2010 at 10:15 am

    another great post! thanks for all the interesting information. What beautiful countryside, too. I’m glad there are organic farmers like the Biedlers to take care of the land for the rest of us and make sure that areas like this still exist!

    Reply

    Hannah Hawley June 29, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Yay for my home town! The Beidler Farm is just one of many farms in the area that really believes that organic, natural, and wholesome is the way to go!
    So glad you were able to experience such a wonderful farm.

    Reply

    Sarah for Real June 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Thank you so much for answering the “grass fed” question very thoroughly. Sounds like these folks do a really great job with their cows.

    I guess my only lingering question is how many other dairies contribute to Stonyfield products and where do they all reside? Are they all based in the northeast or do they still get milk from across the globe? Does Stonyfield have standards that require all dairies to treat their cows in a similar fashion?

    Reply

    Evelyn @ cheers2healthy June 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I liked this post :D Organic feels so wholesome!

    Reply

    Mary @ Bites and Bliss June 29, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I love how they’re making their farm sustainable in every way possible. More people should follow in their footsteps!!!

    Reply

    Tina June 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

    @Sarah for Real: It’s coming! I still have 3 posts to write.

    Reply

    Kelly June 29, 2010 at 10:42 am

    What a cool experience, it really looks like you got to learn and do so much!

    Reply

    Freya @ Brit Chick Runs June 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Wow- you sound SO knowledgable now! Very impressive :)

    Reply

    Melissa (MelissaLikesToEat) June 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Great information!!! What a great company!

    Reply

    Callie June 29, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Sounds like so much fun. :)
    That spelt flour looks pretty good…

    Reply

    Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards) June 29, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Awesome Tina! Thanks for sharing this. They are so smart to invite amazing bloggers like yourself to see and experience all this and then share it with all of us other folk :) so fun! Wish I could have gone too!

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    Morgan @ Life After Bagels June 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

    That was a lot of info about the cows thanks for sharing. And that was super generous of them go share the spelt flour. I can’t wait to see what you make!

    Reply

    The Wife of a Dairyman June 29, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Such beautiful pastures back east :) Wish ours could stay that green for much of the summer over here in the west…..we’re already getting into grass fire season.

    Reply

    Wei-Wei June 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Did you mean that the COWS’ vet bill was more expensive than the dogs’? I was wondering why you would use the dogs’ vet bill being more expensive than the cows’ as a point to prove how the farmers treat the cows…?

    This farm looks amazing, by the way. Great food, lovely cows, and gorgeous green fields! And free spelt flour? Amazing.

    Wei-Wei

    Reply

    Morgan @ Healthy Happy Place June 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

    It’s stunningly beautiful in vermont! i need to visit ASAP!

    Reply

    Lynn (The Actors Diet) June 29, 2010 at 11:34 am

    i wanna live on a farm!!!

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    Allie June 29, 2010 at 11:37 am

    It is great to see that there are great farmers out there that actually care about their products and the people eating them. And that they really care for their animals. After watching Food Inc. I had my doubts! Their farm is so goregous!

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    Sarah for Real June 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

    @Tina: Thanks! I know there’s probably SO much info but you’re doing a great job giving it to us in manageable bite-sized amounts :D

    Reply

    Brittany @ A Healthy Slice of Life June 29, 2010 at 11:45 am

    We need more farms like Beidler Family Farm. I love that you did such a great job capturing your experience- I’m loving reading about it!

    Reply

    allie June 29, 2010 at 11:47 am

    i’m really loving these reviews. do you think you (or all of you all working together) could put together a FAQ post? i always loved stoneyfield and organic valley, but i really love them even more now!

    Reply

    Jo June 29, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    is cabot all organic? I love their cheese, but would love it more if it was organic.

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    Kerri June 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    What are you going to bake?

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    Lisa June 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    That’s so cool they gave you a tour and were so welcoming!

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    Alyssa June 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    What gorgeous photos! I love farm tours, but don’t really have any locally here in Colorado Springs. The closest ones seem to be up in Boulder area.

    I love Cabot cheese and LOVE that they label everything GF!

    ~Alyssa

    Reply

    Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life June 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    My gosh, talk about an experience! You guys are all learning so much!

    Reply

    Staceyhttp://stacey-healthylife.blogspot.com/ June 29, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Love the fields, so pretty. Fresh spelt flour would be nice for baking.

    Reply

    MichellePC June 30, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Your trip sounds so fun and interesting! Have you ever read any of Michael Pollan’s books, like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma?” It’s all about the benefits of organic, locally grown food and the dangers of conventional farming/industrialized food. I highly recommend the book – it’s a great read, and extremely informative.

    Reply

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