At Barn2Door we are fortunate to be able to support farmers who are passionate about growing clean, sustainable food. We love to gush about them. We want them to thrive. They work hard on the farm and we work hard to let you know they exist and have glorious food to sell.
Meadowwood LLC is owned and run by Tom and Darlene. Their herd of milking cows produces some of the best and freshest raw milk in the PNW. We couldn’t resist chatting with them, to learn about the practices and passion behind their dairy farm. Here are some of the questions we asked, answered by Darlene:
Have you always been a farmer?
No, Tom and I each worked in the Aviation Industry for 20+ years before we started farming.
When and why did you start your farm?
We bought our first little "homestead" of 3 acres the year after we got married, because we both loved the idea of living in the country and having some animals. We moved to our current 13 acres in 2001, with our [new] baby daughter. We were VERY concerned about the food system and what we were not being told about it. The old homestead was in the middle of corn and soybean fields in Illinois. The farmer would call me and let me know when he was going to spray the fields so I could close all the windows and take the baby away until he was done. We lost Tom's mom to cancer (age 52). [Tom’s mother] lived in the middle of [the same] fields; it made us think hard about things. We wanted to give our baby every opportunity at a long, healthy life. We decided the best thing we had control over was food - if we grew it ourselves. We started with a large garden and some chickens for eggs… the rest all happened from there.
How’d you choose your farm name?
We were looking for a name that fit our property. We have a large meadow in the front, and woods in the back [of our farm]. Meadowwood was born.
What differentiates your farm from other farms?
We didn't set out to "farm.” Dairy was a product that I couldn't find that met my standards. We did buy raw milk from some other places, but none of them were exclusively fed "chemical free" food. Either the hay was sprayed for weeds or they used chemical fertilizers and conventional grain to feed their animals. "Organic feed" was too expensive for their bottom line. I had to buy my own cow to feed it the way I wanted. One Jersey cow gives way too much milk for a family of 3… we needed to share with others… that is how our farm was born.
Do you have one thing you grow / raise that you are known for?
Yes we do! Our wonderful milk.
What is your favorite way to eat or prepare that item?
Ice cream - but we don’t eat ice cream every day. But we do have fresh milk, butter, homemade cheese, and cream for our coffee every day.
What are the 2-3 biggest challenges of farming?
Time. There never seems to be enough to do all the things that need doing.
Another is frustration when people don’t understand that things are [naturally] seasonal, for example no apples this time of year, few eggs and low milk production in the winter. Everything has a season and to honor plants and animals, you need to live in and with the season. Consider: when you have a tree of ripe cherries, they have to all be picked and dealt with in a couple days (eat, dry, freeze, can). Strawberry season is only 3 weeks long…. people eat kale and brussels sprouts all winter because they [are great storing crops].
With dairy farming is that there are no vacations, weekends or days off. We have to milk 2 times a day, everyday of the year… it gets tiring and we get cranky.
What is your favorite thing to do on the farm?
I love watching the animals, the cows grazing, the chickens clucking and scratching, the mama pig laying in her mud bath. Tom’s favorite part is watching things grow… the planted seed popping up, the babies that are bottle fed, getting big.
What 2-3 things do you love most about farming?
My favorite thing is harvest. I love seeing months of work pay off in that first bite of apple - right off the tree - or the first sweet pea pod picked from the garden. And I love using all the ingredients in our meals, sitting down to dinner and knowing everything-except-the-salt came from our farm (gives an intense feeling of satisfaction and contentment). Finally, I love opening my pantry as we approach winter, seeing all the jars of preserved food that we put up, and looking in the freezer, knowing my family will be well fed for months.