Last weekend we held our first Open Farm Day in quite awhile. We love opening our farm to our community and it does our souls so much good to see our followers and neighbors enjoying our animals and eating our cheese. Ideally, every weekend would be Open Farm Weekend, but, unfortunately, all of this (picture me gesturing around at all the poop on the farm) takes manpower to run and right now we don't have enough. But, what we do have, is awesome.
While chatting with a visitor this weekend she said to me, in reference to the people we had helping, “So, is this like, a family run business?”
My answer was yes.
This business is run by Matthew and I. We are the husband and wife owners and operators. We handle the majority of milkings and herd care. We are also the only cheesemakers and, even though it’s our least favorite task, we can usually be found packaging cheese at 11 pm the night before a market.
Leo, Matthew’s younger brother, also lives on the farm while he goes to college. Leo is responsible for the daily chores (morning and afternoon) that includes feeding the 80+ heartbeats we have living on this farm. Leo is also highly proficient in milking which allows us to leave the farm for a few days at a time, and, as a general rule, he is willing and able to help with whatever we need from him. He’s also great at accents, always has music playing around him, and is THE BEST Uncle.
Every farm also needs an Annie and Johnny. This husband and wife team, in conjunction with their son, who happens to be Giz’s best friend, are a force of perfection. You know how to tell if someone loves your farm as much as you do? Have them sell at a Farmer’s Market. As a general rule owners outsell employees at markets. It makes sense if you think about it. An owner is absolutely and completely vested in the product. They also know everything that went into making it, and, more importantly, they know how much is riding on the success of a market. In short, owners know what bills they need to pay and how much they need to make at a market in order to cover them. They’re hungrier. You could also argue that when an owner talks about their product at a market they’re more passionate and more engaged. All of this translates to more sales.
When Annie and Johnny volunteer to work our markets (you read that right, we don’t pay them) they outsell Matthew and I. Every.Single.Time. And you know what? Save for a few technical cheesemaking questions, they are always able to answer every market goers question about our farm and our product without even asking us. The way our animals are raised, the way we milk, the way we make cheese, shoot, even the names of every animal, they know it all. And we never even had to tell them. They’ve just spent so much time working on this farm that they’ve gleaned the knowledge from experience. Last Open Farm Day Annie sold cheese while Johnny did a dump run and then spent 5 hours turning a downed tree into firewood. On most days of the week you can find our families together at the farm, working, playing, or eating.
Because the food, people. Matthew and I grow it, but Annie and Johnny know how to cook it. And boy can they can cook it. Last night Annie made pork roast (from our pigs) and halloumi (from our goats) while Johnny dazzled all of us with his goat cheese cheesecake (the main ingredient was our chevre). I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Farmer’s have access to the most incredible ingredients in the world. Either what we are growing on our farms or what we are trading for at Farmer’s Markets. Rarely do we have the time to do these ingredients justice.
Which is why every farm needs an Annie and Johnny.
Of course, these people are so much more than that.
When we got invited to Cochon 555 (that's us up there, out for a night in the big bad city) th they were right there with us. When we got picked up by a distributor they rejoiced just as much as we did. When we have to process animals they’re right alongside us. And when we have to make hard decisions around putting animals down they’re shedding just as many tears as us.
When my dad died they trekked the 7 hours down to Oregon to grieve with us. When our son was born Annie was in the room taking photos, some of which will never see the light of the day, because frankly, no one needs to see “that” much of Rachael in labor ;)
This is also probably the point where I throw in we’re very close but we don’t wife swap. Because, no judgment, that’s just not for us.
Friends are the family you make for yourself, and that’s exactly what we did. Our children are being raised as siblings—My mother and Matthew’s mother are grandparents to all of them. We expect the same amount of hard work from their four year old as we do ours.
It doesn’t necessarily take a village to raise a child, but dang, it is nice. And between Uncle Leo and Nana and Uncle Johnny (which is what our kids call them), we’ve created a pretty cool little village here.
So when you ask, is this a family run business?
Yes. Yes it is.
And we are so lucky.