I just got back from a great visit to Cast Iron Farm. Set on the outskirts of town, this little farm is brimming with life. I was greeted by Christine and her two little, young farmhands. Christine and her husband have a heap of animals including cows, goats, sheep, rabbits, poultry and more. Their website states, “We are Cast Iron because we use traditional methods of farming that have withstood the test of time.”
It was 7am and time for the morning milking. Christine led me down to a pasture where her dairy cows were wandering and munching on grass. She opened the gate and two cows proceeded toward the house without any instruction. They knew a bucket of breakfast would be waiting for them in the milking parlor. Their breakfast consisted of some alfalfa pellets and barley. The rest of their diets consists solely on pasture.
Christine proceeded to get the girls all cleaned up and her equipment sanitized. She performed the California Mastitis Test test on each quarter and was good to go.
In the not too distant past, Christine milked her girls by hand. She enjoyed the traditional and pastoral aspect of it. But with recent E coli outbreak reports in the press (not on her farm), and since they sell their milk through a CSA, Christine decided it would be best to switch to a milk machine. She uses a DeLaval milking system, a style that has been used for decades. While some people still milk by hand, a milking system has it’s benefits. The machine pumps the milk directly from the teats into an enclosed tank that can be kept free from outside bacteria and particles. The tank, which sits in an ice bath, also helps in the cooling process. Regulations require the milk to be cooled down to 40 degrees within 45 minutes of milking.
They have four cows on Cast Iron Farm, but regulations allow they only milk two at a time. This means they can rotate the girls and provide ample breaks between calving time. This also allows her cows to live longer and she says, more happy lives. They also milk goats but the timing is limited to springtime and since regulations limit selling dairy product from one species, their focus is on cows. Christine says she uses the goat milk to make a bunch of feta for personal use. It stores well and lasts them much of the year.
Christine is dedicated to preserving traditional methods of farming. Rather than the popular Holstein breed, they raise heritage breeds like Milking Shorthorns which are on the critical list. They also have a Jersey (above) and a Guernsey cow. I was amazed at how docile, friendly and gentle these cows were. It’s apparent Christine and her family put a lot of time and heart into building relationships with these animals. It clearly takes a huge dedication of commitment, 365 days of the year.
I want to send a big thanks to Christine and Cast Iron Farm for letting me visit. And thanks for the work you do to help feed our community.