Steve’s Weekly Update 5/18/11

Climatology 2011: still dry.  What more is there to say?  At least it is generally cool…

This week’s Cow stories:  Mesa Top cows and Jim Miller Ayrshire project:  Our last calf, born in Colorado last week, is a heifer, so if my count is right, we have 13 bulls and 4 heifers in the last calving cycle, which began in October and is now officially over.  We are taking steps to synchronize this process just a bit next year, and hope to calf some in the late fall, then again in early spring.  We do expect to have an ongoing supply of milk, with peaks and valleys of course.

Right now we are milking 8 momma cows at MT.  We milk once a day and the mommas also raise calves.  Our milk volume is way up.  Everyone is healthy and we are continuously improving our systems at all possible levels.  We are considering offering raw milk, and can only do this in a herd share approach.

The concept is pretty simple; it is very much like a CSA in microcosm.  Members pay a share of the herd costs and receive a share of the milk.  If you are interested in such an arrangement, let me know!  We are looking into exactly how many shares we think we can support, and also keep the cheese going as we want it to.  Prices and amount of milk that can be estimated for a share are yet to be determined.

The herd share approach is common in other parts of the country.  It temporarily alleviates the need for inspection and registration process that is necessary to become a commercial seller of milk.  This is because herd share members are leasing the herd from us, and we are managing the herd and providing the milk to the lessees, rather than selling them milk.  The milk is a “byproduct” of share ownership.

We are committed to the process of gaining grade A status for our milk.  We are making steady improvements in that direction.  We have some expensive and specialized equipment still to buy.  We want to make best use of the food that we are producing as we move the process forward.  Hence the possibility of herd shares.

This week’s cheese share update:   We are quickly adding another piece of equipment, a tilt kettle, so that we can make more cheese at a time.  This 40 gallon capacity unit has a jacket of stainless steel that can be infused with circulating, heated liquid, so it is the best way to keep a batch of cheese at the optimum temperature during curding.  It is also easy to handle despite the large volume of liquid, as the curds can be ladled off and the whey drained through a port in the bottom of the kettle.

We are testing and tasting the cheeses coming out of late winter and early spring production and the cheddar is starting to get more of a medium cheddar flavor.  There is a range of quality in the gouda, some is more moist than others. Our Ayrshire Salado Jack is looking like it will be the staple of our line.  Very good flavor and texture.  We hope you enjoy it.

We hope that many of you will get a chance to come to the open house over Memorial Day weekend and see what’s up at Mesa Top this season.

This week’s cheese share includes: Ayshire Salado gouda and Asadero.

This week’s beef family pack update:  This weeks’ beef family pack includes a 4 lb roast, (2) 1.5 lb steaks, (a t-bone and a sirloin) and 3 lbs ground beef.  This is pretty much representative of what we have been putting into the beef family pack since we began offering them.

This week’s Veggie/Share Update:  A quick comment for members who are chomping at the bit for more fresh produce:  The early season is very, very unpredictable.  The weather has slowed down many farms.  And even so, those who have produce have enormous pressure on them to serve the inflated demand of early spring.  In fact most boost their prices significantly in the spring because they can.  This contributes to the smaller size of spring shares and the difficulty of offering any consistency in item selection.

The focus of Mesa Top on building out our livestock projects has taken all of our energy and attention, and we do not have any early produce as a result.

This is a temporary problem.  By mid June we will have a steadily increasing offering.  By early July we expect to be buried in produce!  We encourage any members with personal connections to any other farms to help us reach out to them and offer them the opportunity to join the Beneficial CSA family of farms.  The sooner the better.

Meanwhile this week we have a nice mix of local greens: organic salad mix, organic kohlrabi, turnips, and organic daikon sprouts.

We also have the “once-in-a -season” special opportunity to share with you the first garlic harvested in North America, from the southern tip of Baja California.  I feel badly for the members who are away this week because these braids of garlic are beautiful.  Just hang them in the kitchen and cut off the heads of garlic, starting at the bottom of the braid as you need it for cooking.

We also have some loose garlic from Baja that we will distribute later in the summer until the Northern NM garlic arrives in August.

Membership news:  Thank you for your increasing investment in the CSA as we begin to anticipate our relationship building efforts with our farmers going into the 2011 growing season.

We appreciate your continued support!

Steve Warshawer

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