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Who we are
We are a small grass-fed dairy farm near Jewell, Iowa. We make artisanal cheese.
healthy soils. diverse pastures. spoiled cows.
small batch, hand-made, artisan cheeses
within an hour of des moines, ames, & fort dodge
stay up to date with the farm and cheese
our farm's practices
At this point, we have not applied for third-party certification from anyone. This means we are not certified organic, grass-fed, natural, or any of the other labels you may find on food. We do, however, follow our own rigorous standards in line with our goals to improve the land we are on, have healthy, happy animals, and provide pure and simple delicious cheese. We welcome any questions on our farming practices. Soil We strive to keep all of our soil in place and to improve the health and productivity of that soil. We do that by keeping the soil covered and keeping living roots in the ground at all times. Most of our farm is covered in perennial plants in diverse stands. We manage our grazing to maintain high amounts of residual left after grazing, and allow adequate recovery time between grazings, which allows the root systems to also grow deep. We do occasionally till, in order to make a good seed bed for annual forages and to prepare for new diverse perennial seedings. We do this tillage at a time when it can be re-seeded as quickly as possible, so the soil is not bare for very long. The only external inputs are from purchased hay, straw, and cattle minerals. The manure and bedding is made into Biodynamic compost before being spread back onto the land.
Grass and Forage
We do not spray pesticides, herbicides, or any other synthetic chemicals.
Our pastures are in diverse grass, legume, and forb mixes. In the flat, well-drained cropland areas we seed these mixtures in with a drill, and in the hilly, treed areas it is a combination of the existing plants and some clovers that we have broadcast seeded on top of the soil. In order to maintain the quality and quantity of forage for the dairy cows, we also sometimes seed mixes of annual forages such as sorghum-sudangrass, turnips, and millet for grazing in the hot, dry summer months when the perennial grasses slow down their growth. We manage the forage stands by moving the cows to a new part of each pasture twice a day, using portable electric fencing. This way, the cows only graze each area for a short while, not overstressing the grass, leaving behind potential parasites, and always getting fresh, high-quality grass. This kind of grazing, when well-managed, also encourages diversity, healthy roots, and healthy soil.
Cows We currently have fifteen cows, three springing heifers (heifers that will be having their first calves soon), three steers (castrated males that we are raising for meat), and three heifer calves. Our cows are various breeds, including Brown Swiss, Jersey-Holstein crosses, Normande crosses, and New Zealand Frisians. Most of these cows we have raised on the farm from birth or young age. Our philosophy on animal husbandry is to manage lifestyle and nutrition of our animals such that they will be happy and healthy, and require minimal treatments or interventions. We do on rare occasions treat animals with antibiotics when it is the best choice for them to recover quickly and to reduce suffering. We do not strive for high milk production, rather for high-quality milk from healthy, happy animals. The cows are on pasture 24 hours a day when grazing is possible, and in open-air, bedded pack during the winter months when grazing is not possible. Starting in January, 2017, our animals are 100% forage-fed – meaning we do not supplement their diet with any grains or other feeds. They do get salt and minerals free-choice. They always have access to well water close by.