August 24, 2014 marked Pasture’s Delights 5 year anniversary in the business of producing REAL (raw) MILK! Perhaps since grade school, I’ve been on the journey that lead to the founding of Pasture’s Delights. At a parent-teacher conference, my first-grade teacher informed my mom “Mark is doing very well in school, but for some reason he will not drink the school milk!" I remember the milk at school tasting nothing like the (raw) milk I was used to at home. In twelve years of school, I never did get used to that bland taste of pasteurized “cardboard” milk. As the saying goes “necessity is the mother of all invention” and recognizing that others also were expressing growing demand for great tasting, nourishing food – namely raw milk and pasture-raised chickens – in my adulthood I set out to fill that void.
The belief that one person can do something great is a myth. Pasture's Delights' existence and ability to serve is made possible by quite a few people who have either influenced our business and agronomic practices or in some shape or form have had a hand in our achievements. Truth be known,
I really have no idea who all has impacted the business since the
ripple effect of people’s actions is much greater than we can ever see.
However, we can still acknowledge those who we do know who have
contributed, helped, dedicated, and sacrificed a great deal on behalf of the greater
good of Pasture’s Delights and everyone it serves or affects. Even
Albert Einstein, the scientist who revolutionized the world with his
theory of relativity, didn’t work in a vacuum. Of the debt he owed to
others for his work, Einstein remarked, “Many times a day I realize how
much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labors of my fellow
men, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in
order to give in return as much as I have received.”
I have not had any children yet, but from what I’ve been told, starting a business is a lot like rearing a child. It is a huge commitment that consumes nearly all of your available time, money, and energy—especially during the early years. In 2012, Carrie and Troy Fisher joined in the business rearing efforts. With their contributions, Pasture’s Delights has grow beyond what I could accomplish alone. A huge amount of gracious understanding goes out to all our family and friends for boring the brunt of the sacrifices made by Carrie, Troy, myself and the rest of team in dedicating so much of our available resources toward the rearing of Pasture’s Delights. Our loved ones perhaps feel a little abandoned at times, but they should definitely know it is not anything personal or intentional. We appreciate their understanding and continued support very, very much!
Though Pasture’s Delights is not a typical family farm where either a farm has been handed down or is predominantly managed by family or employs family, it was the influence of my dad and other relatives that most definitely was instrumental for sowing and nourishing the early seeds of ideas of what would later develop into Pasture’s Delights.
I would say the first seed got planted in the 1980s as I grew up on my father’s dairy and grain farm. It was back then that I was exposed to his and my uncles’ propensity toward less chemical farming – for them it was just an innate common sense, perhaps an integrity toward doing the right thing concerning nature and agriculture, and a belief that all these chemicals could not be good for the soil, livestock, them, and their families! They were moving toward organic but didn’t necessarily recognize it as such then. Considering the lower yields, it was not necessarily the financially smart thing to do at the time. However my exposure to their internal awareness and reluctance to compromise the health of the soil while also trying to make ends meet financially got me initially thinking about how I would (someday) farm in a more ecologically sound manner. If seeing is believing, I definitely saw some things then that I continue to believe in now, such as the importance of fish emulsion fertilizer to growing quality crops. To that end, I am lucky to have had the exposure to ecological ideals and cannot judge harshly conventional farmers of today who simply know and believe what they know based on what their farmer parents knew or what the universities taught them. "Father like son" as the saying goes. Fortunately, the more open-minded and observant farmers and other people are realizing the effects that years of chemical farming have had - loss of soil life, soil erosion, decreasing organic matter - and organic farmers are beginning to achieve comparable yields because of soil life increasing
organic matter. More and more farmers are adopting eco-friendlier
practices such as cover crops if not making the switch altogether to organic cropping and
grazing. My dad and uncles planted the good sustainable farming seed in my heart and head. It has been an honor and privilege to nurture and grow it so it can produce and bear fruit.
Yet Pasture’s Delights would be nothing without our customers who believe in this sustainable approach to farming. Quality food doesn’t come cheap. The faith and value our customers have in our business and our product are what keep us going. If it were not for some of our first herd owners like Rachel Heun and Jason Iwen there would be no Pasture’s Delights today. And it is the 500+ families we serve today that make it possible for us to grow and serve their children and communities nourishing food tomorrow.
Getting the initial word out to people about Pasture’s Delights was primarily aided by a significant helpful gesture from Blaine Hitzfield at Seven Sons Family Farm, now the region’s premier grass-fed beef provider as well as networker with many grass-based farms in the Midwest. He built our first website and advertised on our behalf for us. Over the years they have encouraged and supported us with marketing communications, hosting the initial delivery call-out and milk drop-off point at their on-farm store, and most recently loaning their delivery van while ours was serviced, among many other various forms of meaningful cooperation and teamwork. Their family-run operation’s support and desire to see Pasture’s Delights succeed and thrive is a great example of how success and teamwork, rather than greed, gives life to a more vibrant community for everyone!
Bill Werling and his entire family at Werling Farms are another superb example of selfless desire to simply help when and however they can, because they can and want to. Bill doesn’t look for a reason to say “no”, but rather finds a way to juggle things to help us out. We are deeply grateful for his allowing us to borrow his trailer and several other important, necessary pieces of farm equipment. It is noteworthy that Bill and his son Jason are the ones who installed the milking system that is still in use today. On August 24, 2009 we flipped the switch around 4:00 p.m. for our first milking, and the system worked like a charm and has been going strong ever since.
Likewise, the Girod family has gone to unbelievable lengths (i.e. working 3 days straight with no sleep) in order to harvest and bale up the highest quality feed possible for us and the farmers they custom harvest for. Our herd-owners’ cows get to eat quality harvested hay in the winter because of their efforts.
When it comes to farmers who care about others and their communities and our country, I recognize the Hitzfields, Werlings, and Girods as remarkable hero farmers we all can be very thankful are part of the fabric of the American landscape. They are the kind of people who strengthen the fabric and hold our society together. Pasture's Delights is indeed very grateful for the relationships we have with them.
In addition, we can’t forget the people who get things done on a daily basis at Pasture’s Delights. We have a team who work and breathe life into Pasture’s Delights step by step, bale by bale, forkful after forkful, sanitizing after sanitizing, milking after milking, pail after pail, gallon after gallon, crate after crate, mile after mile, persevering through set-backs and jumping over every challenging hurdle that gets in the way in order that Pasture’s Delights can produce and serve the safest, best-tasting milk we possibly can, 365 days a year – now for five years and counting! …nourishing body after body, seeing smile after smile, happier life after happier life – person after person fulfilling their purpose living their American dream. That’s what this is all about.
We are thankful for so many people who’ve enabled Pasture’s Delights to deliver on its mission of harvesting (solar) energy through plants by transforming it into great-tasting, nourishing food: the landlords whose ground we farm, fellow Ayrshire farmers who have facilitated our growth with the purchase of their cows, vendors who make timely electrical and plumbing repairs so milking equipment and livestock water supplies stay operating 365 days a year, and so many more. These vendors also have been understanding and flexible during periods of tight cash-flow when we’ve struggled with paying bills in an ideal timely manner. We appreciate their sense of teamwork and the mutual (long-term) value it begets them and us.
As you know, there is no better learning than through doing. Boy! I have learned a lot on this journey thus far, too much to mention. Some of the biggest take-aways have been:
Business sense, sense of personal responsibility and work ethic are in short supply. Just as many consumers are disconnected from food—not really knowing where it comes from or how it is produced—(Pasture's Delights mission to correct that) I have come to the conclusion there is far greater cause to be concerned with people’s disconnect from understanding business and economics – including the American way of how money, paychecks and wealth comes is produced and distributed.
The government has NOT been the biggest thorn in our side (with the raw milk business). Rather, it has been people who presumably cloak themselves in the American flag and tout the American virtue of freedom – UNTIL their pocketbook or way of life is threatened by fair competition. Then they are all for using the power of government regulations and regulators to maintain their upper hand. In this regard, the bigger threat to small farms like Pasture’s Delights is not necessarily Big Government, but Big Business.
Perceptions form our reality but they may not be actuality. People believe what they see (and don't really think about what they don't see). I'll be Captain Obvious and say we really don't know what we don't know, and I've learned we don't seem to be too interested in finding out either! As a parent knows what it is like to be a child, a child does not know what it is like to be a parent. How could they, unless they have a child themselves? This relates back to the "economics disconnect" in that most business owners / managers know what it is like to be an employee, but fewer and fewer employees, or non-employed people have perspective of a business owner. This is contributing to the polarization of our beloved country. There was a great (mis) perception regarding some points in an article I wrote earlier this year explaining my opposition to minimum wage. I got some feedback from several readers expressing their discontent with me for their belief that since I am against minimum wage that I also try to pay people (at the farm) as little as possible. Actually, the exact opposite is the truth - I desire to see my co-workers earn as much as possible and empower them to do so, and they get what they earn based on the results of our contributions, efforts, to do a great job taking care of animals, each other, and our customers. However, minimum wage increases (reference people's disconnect in understanding business and economics) stymie my co-workers' ability to earn more, just as milk regulations stymie people's ability to sell or access raw milk. Also, whether it be GMOs, Raw Milk, or other food issues - we cannot allow these issues to polarize and divide us. Agree to disagree when appropriate, but do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Seek and nurture the truth always, and the truth will eventually set us free.
Yes, along the way we have had our fair share of detractors and even distractions. The notion that people achieve more by working with others than against them doesn’t seem to be universally accepted. I have learned over the years that some people did not expect us to make it three months – with some even doing what they could to stop us. When a year came around, they gave us another year, then maybe one more. We now have reached the “magical” 5 years. The fact that we have made it this far we owe to the people who have stood with us, worked with us, and who have loyally and faithfully patronized our business. Interestingly enough, most businesses do not fold because of financial reasons, though that certainly is a mitigating circumstance. Rather it is the stamina and perseverance – the will to make it through the lean startup years— needed to achieve sustainability and success.
Admittedly, we have a ways to go to reach Pasture’s Delights’ potential as a diversified sustainable farm producing top-notch food for you. I certainly look forward to doing what I personally can to ensure that happens, but whatever happens it will not be solely because of me. There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve and overcome just by ourselves.
Congratulations everyone on 5 years of teamwork working together! I look forward to many more!
Wishing you wellness and happiness,