Steve’s Weekly Update for 9/22/10

Dear members,

Climatology 2010: Now we have had 10 days of mostly record breaking heat, following our Sept 10th “first frost”. Place that along side the fact that since the big flood on August 15th, we have had virtually no rain.  It is a climate of extremes.

Steve’s Soapbox: This will be published on the blog each Friday.  This week Steve continues his thoughts on New Mexico game management and discusses deer.

This week’s Cow stories:  update on Mesa Top cows, Jim Miller Ayrshire projects and more:

I have to admit that over the nearly 3 years since I bought the last of the Jim Miller Ayrshires from Pat Sullivan, I have been generally ineffective at finding small dairies and placing momma cows on those dairies for cheese making or fluid milk production.  I have placed cows now on 7 different dairies and for sure the 3 that have momma cows now are the best and most likely to succeed that I have had the opportunity to work with to date.

One of the problems has been that I have had no idea what to ask of these dairies, and what to provide to them as support. I have been clear that I do not want to given up ownership of the momma cows at least until I have been able to increase the overall herd size.  I have tried to work out customized arrangements with each dairy, and have been willing on an ongoing basis to provide cash and other resources to help get the dairies up and running.  It hasn’t worked real well.   I have more cows, and healthy cows, and heifer and bull calves than when I began.  However generally I feel no closer to having a working business model that creates resources for herd growth and management, and opportunity for the dairy operators, AND CHEESE for the public!

I have turned to the large, established dairy industry for ideas and found a good one!  Leasing of dairy cattle is a fairly well developed practice, in which “financial and investment companies” acquire top quality dairy cattle and lease them to successful dairy operations under multiyear agreements.  I am now working on a leasing template that gives clear responsibility and costs to the dairy operator.  There are also some good ideas for dairy leasing at the 4H level, individual cows leased to young people so they can be trained and raised for show at county and state fairs

A successful lease will protect the dairy operator, the herd/cow owner, and afford a payment method that is based primarily around raising healthy cows and calves from those cows.  The lease will also go some distance toward helping to define the Ayrshire “brand of cheese” and the lessees’ will gain the right to brand their product using that label.  There may also need to be additional agreements covering the brand and its use.

This finally feels good to me.  I am relieved to be getting down to the details of how to conduct business in clear ways that are economically fair to all participants, and also good for the cows, and finally to be working with some dairies who are committed to success as businesses.

I actually believe that this lease program may be an attractive investment for “green investors” too!  More to follow!

This week’s cheese share update:

This week the cheese share will be a piece of  Asadero and piece of Ayrshire.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:

Produce Produce Produce!!!  As I keep speaking with our farmers, looking for more, different foods, nearly all are excited about the future of the CSA as an outlet for their products.  This year the supply of local food has grown, but perhaps not as quickly as the opportunities for sale.  To me it has felt like there is a lot of chaos in the “marketplace”.  The CSA attempts to provide stability and a fair price for farmer and for member.  I think that farmers did not fully believe that we were “legitimate” in our offers!  But now I think we are recognized, and it will get easier going forward from here.   In the future we will have more and more farmers growing with the CSA in mind.

Meanwhile the current season goes on!  The Mesa Top cukes are done, squash are hanging in there.  Onions and winter squash are starting to cure.  We will continue to give the onions that need to be eaten fresh as quickly as we can.  Cooking greens are slowing down and hanging in there.  So are the salad greens

Apples and poms are part of our regular diet for now.

And this week’s special treat is the first-of-the-season “garlic forte,” big and strong, from garlic grower extraordinaire Bill Page in La Madera.  We will be giving at least 4 heads once a month this season.  Garlic lovers, let us know and we can supply extra via special order process.

Membership news:

Interested in living next door to Mesa Top Farm?  An 1850 square foot home, with guest house and shop, on 40 acres of land that Steve W sold in 1990 is for sale.  It is a very nice home, well built and maintained. Mesa Top sure could use new, friendly next door neighbors.  Interested?  Email stevew@plateautel.net and I will help you find out more!

Please continue to refer your fresh veggie-loving friends and neighbors for membership in our CSA!

Thank you for your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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