Feb 2011

The Difference is our Grass!

What makes Larga Vista milk so different?  The answer is "under our feet"! Sadly, most small dairies do not have a source of water, unless lucky enough to have a well, are forced to rely on dry hay and its unfortunate partner, grain, to keep their animals going.  That is where we have an "unfair" advantage as they call it in Holistic Management, in that we have a very good irrigation right on the Bessemer ditch.  Because of our irrigation rights/shares, we do not need to feed grain because we can grow grass nine months of the year.  When we are growing active pasture, rotating cows through them, soil testing, adjusting for missing nutrients, the grass that is grown is superior in nutrition (plus we realize environmental benefits: building soil and organic matter which sinks CO2). Superior grass nutrition yields superior milk. When the nutrients are cycling and available within the soil system, the grass is high in sugar/carbohydrates (what is known as Brix), which provides energy to the cows and helps them maintain good body condition (many claim you can't successfully milk cows w/out grain w/out them becoming sick-->not exactly true).  Grain makes up for the poorer quality of dry hay that is low in energy.

In the winter (Nov-March), when we feed hay that we have grown ourselves, we add the molasses (a simple carbohydrate energy source that does not alter the rumen (stomach) nor the Omega3/6 balance in the milk) and this year we have also started feeding mangles (fodder beets), which is an old-time practice to boost energy levels.

To learn more about grass-feeding health benefits visit: http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm


*We'll be organizing a volunteer day in March, so please email boonewiley@aol.com if you'd like to come make a difference on the farm!

*Holistic Goal:  A 3-part goal for sustaining farm, environment, and creating quality of life--more on this topic coming soon!


Doug's Thoughts from the North Forty

During the early years following my return to the farm from college, I spent the majority of my time in the fields working by myself.  I grew to like it that way as I learned from the land through discovery and observation and gained many insights unavailable in the classroom.  I was perfectly happy not having to see or deal with any people.  Many years later after the commercial dairy was gone and I started to direct market meat and produce (about the time Kim and I met), I began to enjoy the interaction and feedback I received from the customers at the market and in the restaurants we served.  This contact reinforced my resolve to continue the hard work of farming the place alone during some pretty lean years.

One fine spring day, a year or so after Kim and I started the raw milk dairy, I was walking the pasture giving the cows their after-milking break of grass as people came and went picking up their shares, stopping and enjoying the sight of Jerseys on grass, and heartily waving as they passed.  I was suddenly struck by the contrast between the past and now.  A fresh energy had come to the farm with people involved as shareholders, some helping around the farm, others offering support in different ways and I felt blessed to have these people around me now! 

Joel Salatin writes about modern, conventional farms being nearly devoid of people, while a sustainable farm has many folks working at a variety of tasks throughout the season.  This makes me think of the Larga Vista, when my great-grandparents started, which required numerous families living on and working the farm.  When setting our holistic goal last year, we talked of wanting more people involved in our farm working, learning, and experiencing the Larga Vista while feeding the many families who depend on us. 

We have recently been analyzing our business, looking at the profitability, (or lack there of) of each enterprise and trying to find ways to cut expenses.  We continue to struggle as our farm requires much labor, is in need of many repairs, and is carrying a high debt load.  We are looking for solutions like automating some areas, reducing our reliance on harvested and stored feed where possible, and finding ways to involve more helping hands. 

Last summer a new shareholder suggested that we have a shareholder workday to get a few things done.  As we made a list of projects with our staff this winter and tried to plan time to accomplish these tasks it became clear that we just didn't have the manpower to complete much in between chores.  So, we have conceived an idea to involve our shareholders in different ways on a regular basis this year.  We would like to organize monthly volunteer workdays, as well as, barter for specific projects requiring special skills.

Our goals for this program are to catch up on repair work, start new projects, maintain the farm and improve its appearance, and give people a chance to share in the farm experience with us.  Through this effort we hope to hold down our costs and keep the food we produce safe and affordable for our shareholder families.  So, let us know what you think of this idea and if you are interested in participating.  I tell other dairy friends, we have the best shareholders in Colorado!  Your loyalty and support has enabled us to build this business and create a potential future for these two fifth generation farm boys (Kilian & Doran).  For that we dearly thank you!

Letter from the Staff at Larga Vista

Happy new year from the staff at Larga Vista Ranch!

This letter is an offering of good farming and a request to see it into the future.  Winter's affable blanket laid to rest our vegetable garden, now run amok with delighted piglets.  Cows push their noses toward geese calling from snowy fields and the chickens peck at ground abandoned by cold bugs.  We are witness to nature's cycles and grateful for work which brings nutritious food to our community table.
As shareholders and supporters your purchases are an investment in personal health, place a priority on how we tend the earth and animals, and provides us our livelihood.  Our work everyday reflects these values and the farm thrives thanks to your eating habits.  As if you need the encouragement, please keep eating!

Rest and restoration are often themes during winter months for farmers.  But we also dream and scheme new ways to do our work better.  In the last month alone we've:
  • Introduced the milking cows to mangles, a beet with digestive sugars that help us maintain milk production and hopefully will soon be a substitute to purchased molasses necessary in our milking process. 
  • Installed lights in the hen hous to extend day-light hours, thus stabalizing the laying capacity of those sensitive chickens (we're considering a singing rotation of classical lullabies if this doesn't work).
  • Undertaken a range monitoring study to reflect on our pasture management to build healthy robust soils.
Thus, this message arrives as an invitation:  we're asking you to participate in our innovation.
You can help us ensure that the present work and vision of the Larga Vista Ranch extends to future harvests, calves, kids, and farmers.  We're suggesting the following resources and opportunities to invest in good food for many years beyond the new one.  We can't do it all, and you shouldn't either.  That's why we'll let you know what others contribute so with everyone's help we can get there together.

Projects we'll be needing volunteers for:
  • Building the Chicken Zephyr II--construction work
  • Chicken slaughter
  • Spring clean-up
  • Finishing green house
  • Planting peppers and tomatoes
  • Staking tomatoes
  • Garden hoeing and harvesting
  • Mangel harvesting

Supplies and Materials we need include:
  • Chassis and building materials for the Chicken Zephyr II
  • Paint for pour room
  • Cordless and corded drills
  • Hose
  • Hula Hoe
  • Cement
  • Proficient weed whacker
  • 4x4 ATV
  • Supplies for employee living space:  washer, dryer, kitchen, shower
  • Plywood for rail car shed
  • Air conditioner (window sized)
  • Chiller
  • Freezer and refrigerator units
  • Insulated cabinet for jar storage
  • Small bulk tank

Sanity Services:
  • Yoga instruction
  • Massage therapy

If you don't see us, or we've never met, in fact you know us well.  The milk meat, eggs, and vegetables from the Larga Vista Ranch manifest our love for this farm and dedication to the health of our community and the earth.  May this year and those beyond be abundant with good food and much happiness.  And thanks, we'll look forward to working harder because of you...

Kenny and Kathleen with the Wiley family