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Farm Aid!

If you’re not familiar with Farm Aid, it’s an organization started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and now Dave Matthews. The goal of Farm Aid is to support the family farm, and to help keep as many families as possible on their land and farming. We were honored and humbled when Farm Aid contacted us about doing a story! We feel very fortunate to be doing what we love, and we, like many other small farmers will continue to fight to make our dream of sustainability a reality! Thank you Jennifer Fahy, for your time and talent, and thank you to Jack Roebuck for the awesome photos! Make sure you read all the way through, there’s a treat at the end!
Sullivan’s Pond Farm Heroes!
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Show me your local…

Do you remember a time when Americans supported Walmart because the shelves were filled with products ‘MADE IN AMERICA’?

I’m asking for help from the public, any of you who truly CARE about LOCAL farmers and cheesemakers. If you read to the end, I tell you how you can help. Its not all about your purchases. We need more.

Many of you probably think that the ‘LOCAL’ SMART-TRADING.COM.PH movement has really taken off, and that small farmers and cheesemakers must be doing quite well. Just a little inside information this morning… The truth is that since 2008, small farmers and cheesemakers have made one sacrifice after another just to keep their farms during an economic downturn that seems to have no end! Many have not made it and we are always on the verge of not making it ourselves. Cost of living has gone up while the costs of doing business increased exponentially.

Our economic piece of the pie has gotten smaller at every venue, causing us to pursue more venues. All the while we have remained positive, slowly expanding infrastructure and sales, added a work force by employing cultural exchange students. (opening our home to national and international boarders in trade for farm work and.education), and we have added family into the equation. That just means that we all work for ‘room and board’, just like most other small cheesemakers that I know. We also employ some local folk when we can.

Increased regulations, inspections, some of which must be paid by all people sampling their goods at market, like the new Health Department purview ACROSS THE COUNTRY at EVERY event and EVERY farmers market in EVERY locality. They now have a $40. inspection fee for EVERY event. $40. for the whole season at a market, but for any one, two, or three day event, an additional fee is required, with each locality imposing their own rules on equipment and hand washing, and cooling and any other sanitation requirement that they may have… They call anyone sampling their wares, a ‘temporary food establishment’ and there is a permit required for that. Third party audits are now required for Artisan Cheesemakers in order to keep their products in Whole Foods, (paid for by the cheesemaker yearly). None of this increased scrutiny and cost necessarily brings increased sales or consumer confidence.

There are NO GUARANTEES that orders will remain the same or increase at any venue. Although we are happy about the increased interest in LOCAL, any increase in the number of markets or vendors at a particular market, additions of multiple food trucks, new Whole Foods stores, weather related events, and sometimes spotty orders from businesses who say they support ‘LOCAL’., who continue to advertise and ride the wave without continuing to order from locals.. It all takes a toll, and makes that piece of pie just a little bit smaller.

Here is what I am asking of you… PAY ATTENTION, and ASK QUESTIONS. If your local store or restaurant, claims to support LOCAL, LOOK through their products and see if they still do. Did you know that we are the only Virginia goat cheese in regional Whole Foods now? Look for the display, if you can find it! How about Ellwoods? Please do the same there.

It is not easy to support local… it costs more, but it has immeasurable benefits. Its not as easy to care for cheese like ours HTTPS://SMART-TRADING.COM.PH/ in biodegradable packaging, but it is important for the environment, for the future of our children and the planet! That’s what we believe and that is why we do it this way. Consider purchasing from food trucks who use some ingredients from farmers at their markets. (Why is this not REQUIRED at every farmers market? If you are not using any ingredients from the farmers there, ‘shame on you’!) If you look closely, I think you will find that MOST folks who have ridden the local wave, have actually DECREASED the number of local items on their shelves.

Do you remember when Americans supported Walmart because the shelves were filled with products ‘MADE IN AMERICA’?

Rona Myers Sullivan,
Artisan Cheesemaker, Farmer, believer in a future that includes thousands of small farms and cheesemakers across the country.

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Romanticism and Farming

More Farm Philosophy this morning before hoof trimming.
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These things roll around in my head before I rise and have my morning coffee. I believe it is because these are some of the issues that keep the public from being connected to the realities of farmers. Because that needs to change on many levels, I am trying to do my part.

NOTE; I do not propose to speak for ALL farmers. I am speaking for myself, and maybe a few others. Please be aware that we are working hard to make our farm more open to the public by having public farm days, classes, volunteer days to work on specific projects, and more. Just try to take it all in stride what I have to say… please. I speak not only for myself, but for many other farmers, and I am trying to be kind and tactful.

ROMANTICISM AND FARMING; Installment #1

Everybody seems to love a farm. Most folks dream of visiting, bringing their children, bringing their dogs and playing with goats or other livestock. I felt the same way before I lived and worked on one. I confess… before I had a dairy I DID drop by several. I was going to drop by another dairy goat farm, but when I mentioned it I saw the look of outright FEAR on the owners face… I did not understand why at the time, but I knew I shouldn’t! You claim that you just stopped by to purchase some cheese, when really you just have warm, fuzzy feelings about farms and livestock, and somehow you think the farmer should be happy with that!

I think somehow the public thinks that a farmers sc.edule is flexible, and to a point, it is… but one thing to remember… if a farmer takes time off from regular chores for ANY reason… a nap, paperwork, phone calls, farm visitors, family health emergencies, medical appointments, OR if some event on the farm occurs like the added flurry of activity related to weather preparedness action, or a surprise kidding… those undone chores still await. If the regularly sc.eduled activities pile up too high, then it can be nigh impossible for farmers to catch up. In fact, you have your daily necessary chores, but you also have what I call the ‘farm fantasy’ ones. Those are the tasks that you ‘think’ you are going to get to every day, or at least within the week once you catch up, but THEY REMAIN on the list… sometimes for years.

Common problems with VISITORS and VOLUNTEERS, and yes… GOAT CUDDLERS. (Remember, I admitted that I used to be one). This is hard to talk about, because unless you are the person who stands on the porch with a shotgun, you really DO CARE that people want to help, and you do not want to seem ungrateful. Probably, you care a lot that people want to be more connected to the foods that they eat, and you want to have a positive role in that. I know I do. Most of us have taken great advantage of social media and we post the very ‘romantic’ pictures of animals and foods and workers that make people want to visit even more! So, besides interruptions to chores, here are a few things you might consider before ‘dropping in’ or sc.eduling volunteer time.

*NEVER bring dogs unless its simply a vegetable farm that doesn’t have their own dogs, AND your dogs have been invited. If you want to know, I wil give you the stories to back that up!

*ARRIVE when you said you would! Sometimes people think, “Well, I am volunteering, so the farmer should HTTP://SMART-TRADING.COM.PH/ be grateful whenever I arrive, right?” Not true. Be considerate, and if something happens to make you late… communicate.

*DON”T ADVISE the farmer on how they could do things better, and refrain from making comments about ANY maintenance that they have not had time to get to. I am serious… some guys think that the man of the house needs advice on home maintenance, some guys think that a female farmer needs to be told how to ‘do things right’. You think I’m kidding?

*If you have been invited to a farm, think of ways that you can do special things for the farmer that make it easier for them to take time out for you. Be thoughtful. Offer to donate to a needed project. Bring a meal, cook a meal, take the farmer out for a meal, help them do something that ‘stays on that list’, like I mentioned. EVERYBODY likes to talk about farming ESPECIALLY a passionate farmer, so if you are volunteering or visiting EVERYTHING is going to take longer, and yes, you are probably coming to the farm as ‘unskilled’ farm labor, and you want very much to learn, so there is the touring, teaching, and the feeding of you. You can’t possibly add hours in a day, so if you start start subtracting the time it takes to do the following, (especially if you are spending any nights) … sleep, shower, prepare meals, eat, tour, get instructed. If the farmer harvests from the farm and cooks from scratch, you’ll need to add on extra hours. Then there is the laundering of linens and such, which really piles up if there are multiple guests. One time it took me three days to get through all of it!

*Offer to take the recycling to the proper place for the farmer if there is no ‘pick up’ after a party or a big event.

*Farmers DO have bio security issues and liabilities to be concerned with. Bacteria are everywhere… good and bad, and they come in on your body and your shoes, and on your hands that want to milk or pet those goats. We do not live in fear of bacteria here, but I just want you to be aware of the things that farmers must consider.

*Be careful about posting photos and videos of the farm without the express permission of the farmer. It is easy to misinterpret what is posted, and you may be getting the farmer into trouble, or putting them into some compromised position unbeknownst to you.

Rona

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We’ve got Culture!

We’re honored to have our Moonshine™ cheese featured in Culture Magazine! Thank you very much Erica Jackson Curran for a wonderfully written article. Also We’d like to thank Belmont Farms in Culpepper Va. for their outstanding Virginia Lightning Moonshine!
That’s The Spirit!

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New Kids 2014

It is February 2014, and the kids are arriving by the “goat load”. (sorry) We will have some freshened does, and some kids for sale as the season begins. Check back for photos, and information.

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