Day in the Life

Expanding Our Local Commitment!

Have you seen our new “wing?” It’s small, but every square foot we can devote to our local food community counts.

In January, a survey went out through our newsletter and FB page asking for feedback from customers about our farm store and what other foods we might offer. We’ve had our own ideas brewing, but customer feedback cemented a plan to knock down a wall and create a little more space.

Blink, And It’s Done.

But construction is disruptive, right? And we have a business to run. How do you knock down and rebuild walls, and open up an old barn ceiling without disrupting customers? With a lot of planning, and a good construction partner.

So, the first Monday in February, we started preparing for change.

Graeme prepping the store.

Graeme prepping the store.

Tuesday, while the store was closed, we started demolition, knocking an interior wall down, ripping down the drop ceiling, disconnecting old plumbing, salvaging wood panels for reuse, and putting up a plastic sheet wall so the store could reopen on Wednesday.  

IMG_5645

Looking into the store through the old framing, soon to go.

IMG_5644

Beams match the store! No sanding required.

Wednesday, the new space was framed out (with a small private office for Paul), beams were scraped and cleaned, wood paneling was re-cut and re-used, and electric was re-mapped. Now, we had more light from the 3 windows added to our floor plan. Now, we could see the newly exposed old beams…

Thursday was to be the big finish and clean up, but we had a snow day. To stay on plan, Oliver Hamill, our fearless leader, came in and painted the new space inside the store so we’d be ready to show off the new wing as planned.

IMG_5691

Fresh paint and a recycled wooden panel wall.

Friday our regular customers found us placing shelving, re-organizing, re-merchandising, and spreading out into our new wing. It will take us some time to fully “move in” and use the space to its full potential, but for now, we are enjoying the light and the elbow room.

In time, we plan to add two additional freezer cases to better display our whey-fed pork, grass-fed lamb, beef, and seasonal rose veal. The extra space will also allow us to bring in pasture-raised roasting chickens and more prepared foods, like locally-raised heritage duck, locally-made pastas, pasta sauces, soups, and …. (you tell us!).

We hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures of the expansion. Come on into the store to see the finished space!

Snow Day! Closed all day!

A wet snow is falling and everything is coated in a chilly stillness. Snow is supposed to continue into early afternoon.

Flights are cancelled, speed limits have been dropped on the area highways and bridges, heavy equipment will be out clearing the streets. On the farm, snow days can be a little harder on the animals, especially with wet snow and mud. Our farmers will be tending the herds and flocks, then digging the farm out from under.

Snowfall with sheep

Snowfall with sheep

To keep everyone safe and get the work done quickly, we will CLOSE ALL DAY (updated). e will see you tomorrow at the normal time, 10am to 5pm.

Thanks for your patience.

The Cost of the Journey

Earlier this month, we send a survey to our customers asking for their thoughts and feedback about our store, the products we offer, and. what we could do differently to better serve the people who love and support the farm.

There was a lot of positive feedback about how we farm, the variety of products (from our farm and other local makers) that we offer. Many customers expressed a deep commitment to local food and farms. We asked for suggestions about products we could bring in to round out what we already offer, basically what would serve the folks who support the store.

In all that feedback, a few people mentioned prices, and suggested that lowering the prices of the meats, cheeses and items for resale would be welcomed. We thought that was an issue worth talking about because we understand that is where the rubber meets the road.

Our prices are indeed more than what you pay in a standard grocery store. The US has been blessed with very low food costs. Much of that is due to large-scale subsidized commercial agriculture. A small farm (like ours) reaps neither the benefits of subsidies, nor the economies of scale you find on large commercial farms. What the consumer sees in our store is real cost of production.

moving hay bales

Moving hay bales.

It might seem like raising animals on grass would be cheap. After all, you just let them out in the field and the grass keeps growing, right? Choosing to raise animals on grass is a quality-based decision, rather than cost-based. Cherry Grove Farm practices intensive rotational grazing. Our animals do not free range the large pastures, browsing at will, rather they are cordoned off in smaller sections of pasture so they graze more efficiently. Cows are moved sometimes multiple times in a day, to make sure the grass is grazed evenly and given time to rest and rejuvenate. This rotation also means that 1000 lb cows aren’t standing in the same place-for a long time, compacting the soils, crushing plant roots, and piling up manure (each of which are hard on plants and soils.) Kept moving, cows spread their manure, and graze, more evenly. Our cows become part time farmhands, doing some of our farm labor. But lacking opposable thumbs, they are not a help with much more than mowing and manure spreading. Moving a herd 1-2 times a day takes hands to move and set up mobile fences, reset water lines, bring out the hay in winter.

We also don’t have one large herd of cows. Effectively, we have three herds, as not all the cows are milked at once, or kept together. Unlike a conventional dairy where cows are kept pregnant and milking almost constantly, our cows get rest periods in between pregnancies (that is the “dry herd”). We have the milkers, the dry herd, and the cows that are too young, or not able to milk, both heifers and young bull calves. That is three herds to be moved daily, all to keep the land healthy and productive. Healthy land produces healthy forage, which in turn makes for healthy cows. The quality of milk (or meat) you get from a healthy grass-fed herd is significantly different from conventional herds and we rely on great milk to make our cheeses.

Hooping curds.

Hooping curds.

So, we begin with higher labor costs than a conventional farm, add on labor to make hay all season, minerals and animal health supplies, additional processing costs around cheese making and meat processing/packaging, and then set a price with a reasonable margin for profit, because without profit we cannot sustain the business.

Much the same goes for our resale products, made locally by small-batch producers. None of the makers who are sold through our farm are large scale producers. All struggle with the cost of quality ingredients and valuing their time to make an outstanding, healthy product.  They set wholesale prices to cover their costs and labor (plus a little profit) and we mark up on that. We could buy a more mass produced product for less per unit cost, but that would fly in the face of what we believe and what we profess to you, our customer. We support local makers to ensure they are still making clean healthy foods for all of us in the months and years to come.

It seems upside down that a small farm down the road would have to charge so much more than a huge faceless company that ships foods in from everywhere. But our national food system evolved in this way, with the deck stacked for large agribusiness. In order to raise and offer a superior product, and to stay in business, we have to cover our costs with enough profit to pay our staff and keep investing in the business… so that we can be here offering you clean healthy foods in the months and years to come.

It’s a journey and we are glad to have you with us.

Wishing You All the Joy and Merriment of the Season

red-sunset-w-cows

The cows are milked, the Christmas trees have been sold, the cheese room is dark, we are getting ready to close up the store until Tuesday…

The hustle and bustle of the holidays are slowly calming to a merry twinkle.

All of us on the farm would like to wish you and yours a cozy holiday season full of good food, good people, and laughter.

Merry merry, happy happy.

Cherry Grove Farm

 

P.S. We will reopen the farm store on Tuesday at 10am. (LOTS of eggs will be on hand.) See our news feed for holiday hours.


1902 - Family purchased farm

1910 - Leased land to dairy farmer

1987 - Hamill Brothers inherit farm

2002 - Started as a family business

2003 - Started a beef herd, laying hens, and pigs

2004 - Added sheep and attained organic certification of pasture land

2005 - Added dairy herd and began making fresh cheeses like mozzarella

2006 - Built aging caves and began making aged cheeses

2012 - Grid Magazine’s Cheese of the Month (Nov – Full Nettle Jack); Finalist at the Good Food Awards (Toma)

2013 - Won 2 blue ribbons from the American Cheese Society(for Buttercup Brie and Lawrenceville Jack Reserve); Added second cheesemaker

2014 - Broke ground on additional aging space and began process of getting AWA certification for our chickens
MENU