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Great Grains

Posted Jun 29 2010 6:35am

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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