Our dairy farm sits on Pleasant Ridge, in the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin. The Driftless region was given its name because it is the one corner of the state that wasn’t scraped flat 10,000 years ago by receding glaciers, and thus doesn’t have any glacial deposits, or drift.
Instead, our countryside is full of rolling hills and valleys that have been formed over tens of thousands of years by rivers and streams. Our farm sits near what was the northernmost stretch of the original, midwestern prairie, and its soils are ideally suited for supporting grazing animals with a diversity of grasses, legumes and wildflowers. Add to that some forty inches of rain a year, and it’s easy to see why there is such a strong tradition of small dairy farms here.
Our farm spans 300 hilly acres, all of which are pasture, segregated into small paddocks. Each day we move the cows to a different paddock, which ensures two things: first, that the cows are always eating fresh grass and will thus produce healthy, flavorful milk; and secondly, that the pasture isn’t overgrazed and will re-grow in time for the next grazing.
Aside from a small amount of grain while they’re being milked, our cows eat only fresh pasture from spring through fall. We have a seasonal herd, which means that our cows aren’t milked in the winter. Calves are born in the spring to coincide with the emergence of our pastures, and are milked until Christmas, when they dry off and are given a few months vacation.
- for the land, which suffers less erosion and chemical inputs than when cropped
- for the animals, who benefit from fresh air and exercise and have evolved with a diet of grass, not grain
- for the farmer, who doesn’t have to spend all day feeding and cleaning in a barn
- and for the consumer, who has access to the suggested health benefits of grass-fed animal products (more Vitamin E, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Conjugated Linoleic Acids)
We raise our cows on pasture for all of these reasons, but the most enjoyable result of our style of farming is that grass-fed milk is so flavorful. This is a fact known by many dairy farmers, and it used to be common knowledge to cheese makers back when most cows were fed on pasture during the summer months. Of course the modern trend is to keep cows in barns year-round, where they can eat the maximum amount of machine-harvested food and produce the maximum amount of milk. Whatever advantages this style of farming may propose to offer, flavor is not one of them. We’re proud of the flavors expressed by our land and our cows, and we hope you’ll keep them in mind when enjoying our cheese.