Sustainability

Six Simple Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

Its Earth Day and we wanted to think about ways to be kind to our grand blue marble, Earth.

Here are 6 simple things you can do to drastically reduce your plastic waste.

With all the plastic being dumped into landfill and floating in our oceans, the time has come for all of us to behave more responsibly.

And that’s actually pretty easy.

You don’t have to be perfect, or completely change your way of living. Just follow these simple steps and you will cut down a lot of unnecessary waste.

Change your mindset

It all starts with changing the mindset.

Once you start to actively reduce your waste, you will realize just how much waste there is everywhere. And then, you’ll be able to make conscious decisions about what you buy.

You will be better prepared and will be likely to buy less “stuff” – as you’ll only buy what you need. That, in turn, can help you save money!

2. Say no to plastic bags

The average American family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year. So if you choose to stop using just one type of plastic – the plastic bag is a great place to start.

Stock up with a few reusable bags and you’ll never have to contribute to this waste again.

For example, reuseable produce bags are great to use to pack your fruit and veggies at markets. Pop your produce straight in the bags, and when you get home – wash them inside the bag, and pop them straight in the fridge.

They are also handy to use while shopping in a grocery store, or for general organization too.

3. Swap your plastic toothbrush for bamboo

It’s recommended that we change our toothbrush every 3-4 months. If these toothbrushes are plastic toothbrushes, that’s a huge amount of plastic waste that is being discarded every single year.

In fact, over 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year in America alone.

Imagine if 50% of the American population swapped their plastic brush for a biodegradable bamboo brush. That would prevent 500 million pieces of plastic entering our environment every year, and 5 billion every decade!

Check out these bamboo toothbrushes – they work super well, have been recommended by multiple hygienists, come in cute colors, and work out to cost under $1.49 per brush (often cheaper than plastic ones.)

Swapping your plastic for bamboo toothbrush is another small change you can make, and save money while helping the environment, too.

4. Rethink the straw

Plastic straws are a one and done event. They are too small to be recycled, so their only destiny is either landfill or floating in our ocean.

Ask yourself: Do you really need the straw? Maybe it’s an added luxury…and you could get used to drinking without one?

Alternatively, you can keep a small pack of reusable straws in your bag at all times…and whip out in times of need. They are easy to clean and kind to our wildlife. Whether you prefer stainless steel drinking straws or bamboo straws, you’ll never have to drink with a plastic straw again.

5. Buy locally

At Cherry Grove Farm, we’re all about sustainable farming and treading lightly on the land.

When you buy from local markets, you can cut down your consumption of plastic packaging and will end up throwing less away.  We have a small “Sustainable Re-useables” section in the farm store that makes cutting back on waste a bit easier. Try our re-useable tea bags and coffee filters, or reusable beeswax wraps to keep food fresh without using plastic wrap.

6. Make more at home

There’s nothing wrong with getting take-out; the problem is the packaging that the take out often comes in.

Plastic lids, cutlery, wrap, styrofoam, polystyrene… None of it biodegrades which means that even though your meal only lasted once, the packaging will last forever.

We know it can be difficult to find the time for home cooking, but cooking meals in bulk can cut down a huge amount of time. And make enough to last two or three meals and it can be just as convenient as a take out – but with all the added benefits of being home-made, chemical-free, and plastic-free.

But if you must have those pot stickers or tacos al pastor, why not have a handy reuseable bamboo cutlery pack in the car and just say no to the plastic utensils? Reduce waste in your life.

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Earth Day is a good day to think about what we can do to reduce waste and single use disposables. Hopefully these 6 simple steps have given you a little inspiration to reduce your waste today. And remember – it doesn’t all have to be implemented at once. Just one small change can make a big difference.

We are considering expanding our “Sustainables” section in the store to include bamboo reuseables. Tell us if this would help you reduce waste in your life!

Resilient Agriculture

This winter we got a call form the Education Group at Stone Barns about participating in a video that would be used for their Food Ed Curriculum. If you know Stone Barns, you know they are a leader in the promotion of
sustainable agriculture, local food, and community-supported agriculture. It was a real pleasure to be a part of the story.

Paul Lawler, our head cheesemaker, and Anna Reinalda, our new dairy manager do a great job of explaining what we do and why it is important.

Please share this video

Katahdin on parade

Balancing Competing Herds

Our farm sits on 480 acres of land. Sounds like a lot, right? A large portion of that is woodland and wetland. Two sizable sections are leased to Z Food Farm and Cherry Grove Organic Farm, our local organic vegetable CSAs. That leaves about 230 acres to us for pasture land.

A farmer who wants to raise animals on pasture requires a large amount of acreage per animal. Not surprisingly, large animals need a lot of space to find the food they need to thrive. A cow needs to eat 4% of its body weight in nutritious forage each day. A dairy cow requires an even larger percentage to support a calf, and making milk. Pastures must be rested and maintained to support the nutritious greens the bovine herds require. Raising hay for the winter months is also a part of the equation. Good hay is expensive so we try to cut a lot of our own, and that takes acreage away from summer forage, reducing the number of animals we can support. The industry rule of thumb is 4 acres per cow if you also raise hay. (And lets not even get into the winter sacrifice fields.) Smaller critters, like sheep and pigs, can be kept on smaller plots. For example, you can raise 6 sheep on one acre, or 20ish pigs on one acre. But the animals still need to be rotated through the acreage so the grass and forage have time to rest and replenish.

Over the years, we have re-balanced our herds and flocks continuously. With a limited amount of pasture, and a growing demand for grass-fed meat, we have had our hands full determining what animals our pasture can realistically manage. Cherry Grove Farm is primarily a farmstead dairy producing cheese. So, dairy cows are our bread and butter. (Pun intended)

Because we believe in diversified sustainable farming, we raise about 40 pigs each year on 3-4 acres, with lots of room to root and forage. (Pigs consume the protein-rich whey that is a by-product of cheesemaking.) These days, we raise a few more beef than we used to, as the market pushes for that, but we cap it at eight beef per year. Sheep graze grass to its nub, making recovery longer (and problematic in droughty times). Last year we decided to cut back on our sheep production to allow more pasture for raising winter hay.

What can YOU expect to see in our freezer cases? A steady supply of pork and beef, raised here on the farm. Cherry Grove Farm lamb will become a seasonal product. We will be bringing in lamb from a grass-based farm in Delaware to satisfy our lamb customers. The farm we choose will raise sheep the way we have always raised them, on pasture without hormones or antibiotics.

And you can expect lots of cheese… a high quality, farmstead product from our own grass-fed cows’ milk, made by hand and fussed over by our dedicated cheese-making team. Because happy cows make really good cheese.

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.

The Agony and The Eggs-tacy

dozeggs

Every winter we face the agony of fewer eggs to sell. It’s a chicken thing. When the days get shorter and colder, the chickens slow down (or stop) laying. Some types of chickens are more cold hardy, but in general… winter means less eggs. And every year we have to face our customers’ disappointment each day when we say, “Sorry, eggs are gone for the day.”

As a sustainable farm we try to do everything in balance… the right number of animals for the land, pasture, and farmers. As such, we raise a limited number of laying hens and that means a finite number of eggs every day, in every season.

Which brings us to the eggs-tacy. These eggs are the real deal… from pasture-raised hens who each fresh grass and insects all day. From a variety of chickens who roam in the same fields with our sheep, spending their days scratching, pecking, and being chickens. They lay eggs in many subtle shades of brown, lavender, blue and green, making each carton a veritable Easter basket of colors.

Our eggs are hand picked every day. We hand wash (no soaking!), and set them out for sale within 12 hours of collection. When you break them open, the yolks are deep orange and the surrounding white has substance. This is not a pallid, watery egg that has been sitting in a cooler or on a truck. Truly pasture-raised eggs are the gold standard.

As the days lengthen and spring turns to summer, our hens start laying in earnest and we again have 20 to 30 dozen pastured eggs to sell to neighbors and farm friends each day. Like everything else on the farm, this is the regular cycle of agony and eggs-tacy.

(Supply is up from January and we see more smiling faces each the morning. Morning is always the best time to find our pastured eggs in the case.)

 

 

 


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
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