We just returned from an exciting day at the Stuart Family Farm in Bridgewater, Connecticut. We visited with Bill and Deb Stuart along with WPIX/CW Channel 11 News who wanted to see firsthand what an Animal Welfare Approved farm looks like and how the auditing process works. Arthur Ch'ien and his cameraman Jason Johnson spent three hours with us and took so much farm footage that they ran out of tape! And despite, both Arthur and Jason's initial apprehension about getting up close and personal with the cows, they became fast friends with Urma and a few other heifers in the Stuarts' grassfed herd.
After a 20-year career as an engineer, working in corporate technology, Cindy Hamrick wanted a change for her family that reflected their long-time interest and concern for sustainable agriculture and food production. In 2011, Cindy and her three sons started farming and eventually built what became Carolina Farmhouse Dairy, a 15-acre family farm located in Bahama, North Carolina. The Hamricks wanted to raise dairy cows, and they also noticed that yogurt was a dairy product missing from local food outlets in their area, so they began looking into the possibility of creating a farmstead yogurt business. They haven’t looked back!
Cindy and her team raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW Jersey dairy cows at Carolina Farmhouse Dairy. According to Cindy, Jersey cows are a particularly good fit for their farm because of their efficiency at turning forage into high-quality, flavorful and nutritious milk: “We’ve been working with Jerseys for about four years,” says Cindy. “They’re beautiful and we love their personalities. The quality of their milk is incomparable, which results in the highest quality yogurt we can produce.”
The cows at Carolina Farmhouse Dairy are rotationally managed on 15 acres, grazing one section of pasture before being moved to fresh fields. This allows grass to recover before cows return to graze again; it also keeps the soil properly fertilized and minimizes the build-up of internal parasites, thereby avoiding reliance on chemical treatments. While rotational management is a key component of her farm practices, for Cindy everything comes back to the health of the soil: “Soil health is the single biggest factor for making sure animals are healthy. Healthy, organic soil and forage creates a really healthy animal that produces really healthy milk, resulting in a really healthy product. The benefits flow all the way downstream.”
According to Cindy, pasture-based management offers other benefits, particularly for the health of animals and the wider environment. “While there’s a reduced feed cost that comes with pasture-based management, I believe that the less grain the cows eat, the healthier they’ll be,” Cindy says. “Pasture-based management is very positive in regards to your overall carbon footprint. If you have animals on pasture, eating grass and distributing their manure, it can create a negative carbon impact, as the soils absorb and hold on to atmospheric carbon dioxide. A healthier environment and lower carbon footprint: that’s the way it’s intended to be.”
Cindy chose to pursue AGW certification because, as she explains, “this is the first time we’ve had a product that will be on a shelf without us standing in front of the customer.” Having the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW logo helps Cindy show new customers that she really is farming the way she says she is: “AGW certification is a way to communicate our standards to a public that’s not talking directly to us when they are shopping in a store.”
In the future, Cindy plans to use her farm to help the next generation of farmers start their own enterprises—something she is clearly very passionate about: “I’m a business person. I want to create a decent margin of profit while doing something I love, and it has been difficult finding that in agriculture. The biggest obstacle to small farm growth is finding start-up financing to purchase things like land, equipment, barns or livestock. Our goals is to use the profits of our farm to assist new farmers with the resources they need to be successful.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW yogurt from Carolina Farmhouse Dairy is available at multiple retail outlets in North Carolina and along the eastern seaboard. Check the AGW directory for details. For more information about the farm, visit www.carolinafarmhousedairy.com along with the farm’s Facebook page. Contact Cindy and her team at email@example.com or 919-471-6817.