Today, we completed the dispersal of all our animals, our herd of Oberhasli dairy goats and a handful of sheep. It was bittersweet. These girls became part of our family in the Spring of 2011, shortly after we purchased this farm. Every day for almost 6 years (2,000 consecutive days), one of our family spent time with these creatures, making sure they were fed, watered and milked. Each of our kids had their favorite (actually, I think they all had the same one) and excitement ensued when they grazed in the back of the house at meal time. We nursed some by bottles after rough births. We nursed some back to health after surgery. Some we assisted birthing in the wee hours of the morning. Cleaned them, cared for them, LOVED them.But it became apparent last year that we were fighting a losing battle in making them financially viable. Most significantly, the 1980’s era cattle barn they were housed in, is really showing its age. The milk house, having been stripped bare by previous owners, still needed thousands of dollars in renovations to get it up to current health standards in order to obtain a milk license needed to sell the raw milk on-farm. Sections of the roof were coming off from years of withstanding winter winds. Entire sections of roof supports had been snapped under the weight of wet winter snow a few years ago. And after almost 40 years of aging, timber frames and building parts were just breaking and rotting.
Besides the impossibility of keeping up with capital repairs, the last two years saw us without the ability to bring in our hay. So we had to buy it for the winter months. That on top of the hundreds of dollars a week required in grain. And the constant movement of fencing and a hundred other little things that need to be done to properly care for animals. All of this time and money was being invested without a way of bringing in some income. So, we chose to change directions.
Farmer John just left with the last of them on the back of his truck. We are sad to see them go after all the blood, sweat, and tears we put into them. But hopefully, a long needed respite is at hand as our daily chore regimen just left with them. I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you to our two boys, Jack and Will, who spent many hours with these girls when I couldn’t, or who just lent a hand when needed. And Cate and Carrie who jumped in when needed even after spending all day helping tend to our own little ones. This is not the way we intended this to end when we bought those first 8 does. But we have learned a lot and will use that knowledge as we go forward on a new adventure here on the farm. We have not surrendered; we will find a way to steward this farm, hopefully for generations to come.
Please do not feel sorry for us. This is the way of small family farms today. We knew that when we started. But please do know that this is the way of small family farms. It is entrepreneurship of epic proportions. We collaborate with our Creator to make something out of nothing for the most important of reasons – the very sustenance of humanity. Keep us in mind every time you eat, every time you go to the grocery store. Know that we undertake this voluntarily for those we don’t even know. This is our labor of LOVE.