The Chief Milkmaid | Spring on the Farm

Posted in Blogs, Culinary

Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
April 11, 2014

It’s spring!! Yee-haw!!

Days are getting longer. The weather is cooperating, even giving us flirtatious peeks of summertime.

The world is green. We are surrounded by the bright green of the Big Leaf Maple blossoms, the deep green of the nettle leaves and the green swords of the daffodil leaves framing their bright blooms.

Honestly, I’m so exhausted I barely notice.

Little Brown Farm's Big Leaf Maple   Photo by Vicky Brown

Little Brown Farm’s Big Leaf Maple    (photo by Vicky Brown)

Today was another 19-hour day on the farm. Considering most people work closer to eight hours a day on their jobs, it sounds like a long day. It is. Many people don’t believe we actually work those long days on farms. We do.

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Georgie Smith of Willowood Farm (photo courtesy of Vicky Brown)

Every day isn’t that long, but it’s spring. For farms that depend on livestock, spring means new life. In our case 24 new lives so far. For produce farms, they have starts and plantings and rows to hoe. For farmers, spring is the season of exhaustion.

Fortunately, it is often motivated by a passion so deep in the soul the farmer could only be taken from the land by force. These extreme hours, this torturous sleep deprivation, this backbreaking work is what feeds us. For the farmers, it feeds our soul and our stomachs. We hope it feeds you too.

In spring a farmer is tending seedlings under perfect heat and light, nursing newborn calves or goats until they can figure out this cold new world on their wobbly legs and watching chicks replace their fuzzy down with awkward feathers—sometimes all in one morning.

Farmers work this hard simply because we must. We hope you will help us continue this wholesome pursuit of satisfaction by rewarding our labors with your appreciation. Since most farmers I know are too tired to tell you, let me give you a few hints of what you can do to help the farmers in your community right now.

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Christine Maifeld bottle-feeds one of the new baby goats at the LBF (photo by Vicky Brown)

1)  Buy your local farmers’ goods directly from the farm (farm stands, farmers markets, CSAs). We know you’re ready for spring greens. We know you’re ready for tomatoes too, but it’s NOT tomato season. Buy what we have now. Keep us growing, producing and working so we can continue to get you the freshest, seasonal best throughout the seasons.

2)  Support them through resellers when you can’t get there directly. This remarkably supportive community offers several great specialty shops for buying local goods. Even the grocers are getting in on it. If you don’t see what you want or don’t see locally grown options, request them. These stores are here to serve you. If you ask for local leeks those grocers can get them, but they need to know you’re serious about it or they will just keep buying them the same old way they always have.

3)  Dine at restaurants that support local producers. I know Dairy Queen has a drive-thru and they employee local residents. Go ahead; get your Blizzard there. How about when you go out to eat you consider a restaurant that employs locals and serves up local beef (like Neil’s Clover Patch), or features local produce every night (like Oystercatcher) or makes the best collard greens—using local greens—that you’ll find, even if you head to the deep south (like the BBQ Joint)? (I know I only listed three of the many wonderful eateries that use local products—this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list. Ask your favorite place what local goods they use. Again, you, the consumer, have the power.)

4)  Ask the farmer how you can help. Can you take their kids to the 4-H meeting? Can you drop off coffee or soup? Can you run to the post office for them? We all have a million things to do and we are supermen and superwomen—we will get them all done, probably without asking for help. However, it’s really nice to feel a little neighborly spoiling when we’re stretched so thin. I know how important this is because we’ve enjoyed many gifts from our friends—from coffee to carrot cake and every course in between. During the peak of kidding season we certainly would have gone without meals if not for the kindness and generosity of our friends and supporters.

Daffodil in bloom   Photo by Vicky Brown

Daffodil in bloom (photo by Vicky Brown)

5)  Offer them a little forgiveness. We are tired. We’re probably hungry. We’re also probably more than a little stressed. There are a lot of expenses piling up and our income hasn’t started coming in for the season yet. We’re juggling a lot. We are just getting used to being always exhausted again. In August we will be in the zone. We will be accustomed to the demands we put on our bodies. Barring any crisis, we will be feeling the financial relief of regular markets and wholesale purchases. We will be recharged by watching our neighbors delight in the fruits of our labor. For now, we might be a little prickly, so cut us some slack.

Soon, I will be back to our rhythm at the Little Brown Farm.  Once Winsome has her babies and the last little goats are safe with hooves on the ground, I can relax. After that I promise you some delightful recipes featuring the fresh abundance of spring.

For now, I’ll dream of the fresh pizza I will be making when Tree-Top Baking brings their pizza dough to market and I pull my sauce from the freezer and smother it all with cheese from my winter research projects. And I’ll get back to making more of that delicious Ugly Butter for you all for that first Bayview Farmers Market. It will be here before we know it! (Coupeville Farmers Market is already open!)

Vicky Brown, Chief Milkmaid at the Little Brown Farm, puts her passions on the page writing about food, agriculture and the tender web of community.

To hear a podcast of the KWPA/Whidbey Air interview with Vicky Brown and Georgie Smith on KWPA follow this link: Farmer Gals Chat with Vicky Brown and Georgie Lea Smith

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