Sunday, October 16, 2011

Farm Visit: Ocean Breeze Dairy Farm

Today was Cabot's Open Farm Sunday - when the coop (known for their cheddar cheese) opens all of the farms in New England for free farm tours.  I'm always interested in an opportunity to tour a farm, so my family and I headed to Ocean Breeze Farm in Westerly, RI, where my grandmother lives.  I was especially excited to see the farm because it's right on the ocean and it's for sale.

Except that the people at the farm said that it was not currently for sale (despite the sign in front of the house) and the farm was in desperate need of repairs.  The majority of the 60 acres of open land were used to grow corn, which is made into silage (essentially pickled corn) that can be fed to the cows year-round.  This is the way most conventional dairy farms operate.  It is much better, however, if a farm can set up a system that keeps the cows out grazing on the pasture for the majority of the year.  Cows are designed to eat grass and pasture-fed cows produce very high-quality milk.

I was a little bummed to see a farm with such potential that seemed to be just barely getting by.  This is largely because the government regulates the price of milk, setting a fixed price per pound, and for several years the price has been much lower than is needed to feed the cows and pay the farmers.  The government provides subsidies to some farms, but it's hardly enough to get by, let enough improve barns and purchase the fencing and supplies needed to transition to a pasture-based system.  Our milk industry is broken and desperately needs to be fixed.

Being at Ocean Breeze reminded me of one of my favorite dairy farms in CT: Ferris Acres Creamery in Newtown.  I visited Ferris Acres on Tuesday with K, for one last taste of their delicious ice cream before they close for the season.

Ferris Acres Creamery has some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted.  And with flavors like Route 302 Moo (chocolate ice cream with fudge and chocolate chunks), Paradise Found (coconut ice cream with fudge and almonds), and PBC2 (chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirls and peanut butter cups), it's hard not to dream about it all the time.  When they open in the spring, we visit the farm every night.  Ice cream for dinner is a MUST after a winter without.

The farm is also beautiful.  The cows are outside almost everyday on pasture.  If you visit at 5:00 in the evening, the main road is closed while the cows cross the street to come into the barn for milking.  Ferris Acres is the last working dairy farm in Fairfield County.  I eat as much ice cream as I can to try and keep it that way.

Milk, ice cream, butter, sour cream, cheese, yogurt, cream cheese - I love it all.  Mmmmmmmmmmmm.  Can't wait to have my own cow someday!

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