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Around The Grange
Connecticut Dairy Farming Families Passionate About Surviving

By Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant (10/13/10)

  OCTOBER 24, 2010 --

Over the phone, Kathy Smith is reciting the ingredients in Muddy Boots Chocolate Chocolate Chip, an ice cream from The Farmer's Cow.

Smith, who isn't even a big chocolate-eater, insists the dessert is worth starting a relationship for, just so you can end it and drown your sorrows in Muddy Boots. The ice cream was offered at a recent farm tour, along with a vanilla/caramel swirl that made the drive to Lebanon's Graywall Farms more than worth it.

Who knew dairy farming could be so much fun? I come from chicken farmers, and I don't remember any one ever exulting over products like this. 

The Farmer's Cow is chapter six in Mark Winne's new book, "Food Rebels, Guerilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin' Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture." And though it's weird and technically inaccurate, when I came to that chapter I said out loud: "Hey, that's my cow!"

Well, not "my cow" technically, but emotionally, yes. The Farmer's Cow is a group of six of Connecticut dairy farming families who banded together in 2005 to provide fresh and local products. In "Food Rebels," Winne, former executive director of Hartford Food System, looks at similar workable and sustainable alternative food systems.

But the Farmer's Cow's story isn't just ice cream. We've lost farmland at an alarming rate; Winne says Connecticut is home to just 157 dairy farms, down from 663 in 1980. Farmer's Cow maintains with rigorous public education events, judicial guarding of open space and plain good products. Another member, Hytone Farm, is the 2010 Connecticut winner of the Green Pastures Award, given annually as a recognition of an operation's commitment to quality crops, good farm management, community service and conservation practices.

Perhaps one of their more impressive skills is creating a sense of ownership among customers.

Smith, Farmer's Cow customer service and events manager, is also a member of Farmer's Cow's six-generation Cushman Farms in North Franklin.

"We have a story," Smith said. "Anybody can sell ice cream or milk. We are selling farm and land preservation. It's not just the six farms involved in this. It's a community thing, bringing agriculture back to life in Connecticut."

Recently, a customer told Smith she'd seen Farmer's Cow products in Fairfield. She told Smith: "I felt so proud. I am from the town where that's made. That's my town!" And that's my cow.




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