For the Health of it
Kira and I decided to get back to farming just for the health of it. Kira is the most "lactose intolerant" (also known as "processed-milk intolerant") person on the planet, but found out she could drink raw cow's milk and enjoy all the products from raw cream without any digestive discomfort. Now she drinks up to a gallon a day, trying to make up for her 40+ years without milk.
So we got a family cow, another, another, and then hogs, chickens, more cows, and the rest is history. Chemical-free, soy-free, pasture-based farming merged all of our passions about healing foods with our opposition to misinformation in the dietary recommendations and misinformation in agricultural practices. Creating a livestock shares business invites (or maybe forces) all our would-be customers to take part in the farm, get close to the animals, and to get back in touch with their food supply, all the way from the dirt up to the beautiful feast laid out on the table. How cool is that?
In the past four years, we have created a rapidly growing "farm-to-table" business with a clear mission. The "farm-" part of our business cranks out the healthy ingredients for the "to-table part. The foods and meals you all create from the goodness you get from your farm is our end product. But sometimes, the "farm-", pronounced "farm hyphen," part of our business competes internally with the "to hyphen table" part of the business. You'll see what I mean shortly...
Your raw milk dairy is the centerpiece of your farm, influencing all the other aspects of the farm. Even if you don't get the milk, the chickens do, and the hogs do too. Cows eat grass, so you don't have to, and hogs and chickens eat grains, so you don't have to. The digestibility and nutrition in grains is boosted when they are fermented for a few hours in sour raw milk (ancient wisdom). Our hogs and chickens just go crazy over their lactofermented feed, and it makes for very healthy and nutrient-dense meats and eggs. The hogs perk up their ears at the mention of "lactofermentation".
And Now For Sausage
One of the main supporters of your farm is Jim Smith, who lives down in California and also lives up near Seattle, so his average home location is right here on the farm in Yoncalla, Oregon. Jim IS the reason that we are on this 160 acre paradise in the middle of Oregon. Jim has understood and supported our mission from day one, and has been with us as partner through thick and thin.
Jim was a wunderkind who showed up to work for my software localization business back in the olden days of CRT monitors and 2400 baud modems (maybe 9600 by then). Jim and I clicked from the get go, and when an important project was going south for my company, I sent him off with his girlfriend (now wife) to Singapore to save the day, and, again, the rest is history (you have to come to the farm for a farm stay with us to learn true history).
Jim and his family have aligned with all the aspects of our mission since we asked for his support in getting us started in Yoncalla. He's in it for the health of it as well, but I also think there are three main reasons he is so enthusiastic about our success:
Here is Jim, modeling his Helios Farms "to-table" attire.
Look closely at that smile, because this is where the drama really starts.
Over the New Year's holiday, Jim had arrived home with his latest hog share (as well as some ducks that fell from the sky while he was on a holiday hunting trip). The next day, I was going about a normal "farm-" day, when Jim spontaneously began "competitive texting" me with "to-table" pics from a sausage palooza that was just about to happen many miles away near San Francisco.
It started quite innocently with a picture from the hunting trip, where a whole Helios Farms leg of pork ended up on a barbeque:
I hadn't really prepared for a competitive text match, so, although the picture was amazing, I just started walking up the hill to share it with others. Jim had caught me working on the "farm-" part of our business, in my "essence-de-porcine" attire, moving our Berkshire breeders into hog-ma-hall. So the only response I could muster was a shot of our pork production team in their winter quarters, ears perked because I said "lactofermentation" before I clicked the shot:
Jim was unimpressed and clearly knew that he had me at that point, because the shots from the "to-table" side of the business started coming rapid fire. He executed the series with all the skill of a well-trained water-polo master, and he had me scrambling for air.
First, the fresh Helios Farms ingredients shot came. Pow! I was stunned.
Before I could react, the ready-to-grind-and-stuff shot flew in. Zing!
The stuffed-sausage-in-a-bowl shot came next. Kabam!
Stuffed and packaged. Zow!
Finally, the cooked sample shot. Bam! Bam! Bam!
...and the competition was in full swing. I was on the ground at that point. My iPhone camera lens splattered with muck, frantically looking for some way to counter the attack.
"Jim" I pleaded, pointing, clicking, and hoping he would hear my faint voice from Yoncalla. "We're building a new barn, remember? Look at all the rocks! The dozer! There's a little muck, yes, but look at the trees! Yes the trees!"
Jim's text stream fell silent for a moment. "Was he reeling from my texted pic?", I thought. Did that little hail-Mary hit solid ground? But I was being naive, and, clearly, Jim was going for gold.
The whole-new-batch-of-sausage shot came, and I knew that, with only a set of feeble "farm-" shots, I was going to be no match. He was relentless!
The new-batch-stuffed-and-laid-out shot. BAM!
The ready-to-grill shot. Zapowee!
And finally, to secure victory, Jim texted the BBQ technology shots. Yes technology. I could just imagine what was going through is head..."CRT and 9600 baud modem" he was thinking. "Is that the best you can do!"
"CyberQ?!?!" I screamed "Noooooooo!" Kaboooooooom!
I was finished. On the edge of defeat, laying face first in the dairy cow pen where I had crept away for some quiet solace. My iPhone had jumped from my hands in the frantic pointing and clicking, but thankfully landed on a bit of fresh straw in their pen, unlike my face which was sampling the steaming, sequestered carbon. I picked up the little white beast and clicked once again. Normally faithful companions, all of the cows, except Dori, were looking away in shame. Even Dori seemed to be questioning my very existence.
"Farm-?", I squeeked, but all I could think about was "to-table." I couldn't even send the dairy cow pic. I hung my head in shame. The text stream went silent. It was over...
But then, as I've done many times before since arriving here in Yoncalla, I reached deep down and mustered all my strength, stood up, wiped the tears and poo from my eyes, and marched toward the farm lodge.
Family inside had no idea of the challenges I had just faced. The grandkids were playing together angelically and quietly in the corner. Everyone looked at me curiously as I limped, panting, into the kitchen, iPhone dangling loosely in its holster. Probably not looking much different than after a normal day on the farm.
New Year's Eve dinner is ready they all cheered. I looked on the cutting board and I couldn't believe my eyes! "Yes," I thought to myself. "Yes."
"Pork loin sauteed in fresh herbs and homemade gheeeeeeee!" I bellowed. And, click, send, done.
The whole farm family looked up at me and raised their eyebrows (I act this way, a lot). "Let me wash up." I said.
I could feel Jim smirking 500 miles away, thinking "Not even close."