I went to check on our community’s newest raw milk dairy, Cresset Farm Dairy, run by Daphne Kingsley and Cameron Genter. Having only just moved into Northern Colorado last August, they have made some impressive progress establishing themselves in the local farm community.
The late morning was spent following Daphne on a walking tour of the farm while she and Cameron did chores. Every minute counts right? During this time I learned that Daphne was raised on a farm in Upper State New York, and Cameron came from the Witchita, Kansas area. In 2000 they met on a California horse powered bio-dynamic farm where they both apprenticed. It was during that time that Cameron took an interest in draft powered farming and learned the ropes over the next three years, ultimately becoming the lead driver.
After that experience, and realizing not only would they remain together but farming was in their genes, they spent the next following few years farming across the country. A draft-horse farm in Maine, a dairy in Vermont where they learned dairying and cheesemaking, and then Wisconsin. It was in Wisconsin where they set down some roots, buying forty acres and spending nearly a decade building a wind and solar powered off grid micro dairy. So why would they leave a dream farm like that? Well, several reasons really. Some personal and some practical. As for the practical Daphne explained that while they created a nice small group of supporters and members, living in such a rural location that has a lot of homesteads and farms limits your development, as a community and a business. You can only grow so much and the size of the community is capped. So, they made the decision to move their family to the Front Range.
As we discussed community and sustainability on various levels, Daphne explained that it was quickly apparent that the opportunities here were much greater than those they had in Wisconsin. “The front range is more populated and there is a great educated consumer base, that understands the benefits of raw milk and how a herd share program works,” she explained “we can spend less time educating and can focus more on the farming.”
And farming is just what they are doing. Their committment is the raw dairy, farming with draft horses and bio-dynamic farming. Which makes their location and partnership with Cresset Farm, a bio-dynamic farm, perfect. Their desire is to stay small. A micro-dairy, which runs ten cows or less at a time. Currently they are running six cows, with two to freshen in the Spring. They brought some of their herd from Wisconsin, where they were breeding Ayrshire/Jersey crosses. Having little knowledge of dairy cows, she explained the benefits of the milk in taste and texture with the Aryshire line, and that they were breeding for the A2A2 milk protein. This protein is complimentary for raw milk, and is believed to be better for those with milk sensitivities.
They were able to absorb some of the herd from Windsor Dairy to get them up and running sooner. Daphne expressed her appreciation that they were able to find cows that were bred for a grass based operation, since so many are now bred for grain consumption. The newer members are Tarantaise/Swiss and Tarantaise/Jersey crosses. And can I say the calves are adorable (and the male calves are available for sale). The closing of Windsor Dairy also helped them to grow quicker than anticipated, from 40 members to 100, as many customers were referred to them.
And while dairying is the center of the farm right now, as is grass farming on their leased twenty acres in order to feed the cows and horses, there is a greater vision at work. That vision is to create a sanctuary for the community. A community of farmers. In the future they wish to incorporate education, events, festivals and the like.
After checking out the herd, the milking barn and the milk room, we then went to check on Cameron and the draft horses. As the winter months tend to be slow work months for the animals, it’s important to exercise them and remind them how to work. Like folks on a Monday morning after a nice relaxed weekend, they can forget how to work and can get a little spunky transitioning back to their job. Cameron hitched them up to the sled and we took a ride through the fields, with an amazing view of the mountains, and got them warmed up for chores. Chores consisted of moving round hay bales into the winter paddocks for the cows.
In Wisconsin, Cameron explained they bred their own replacements. We discussed how every animal on a farm needs a purpose, and draft horses definitely provide a purpose. Especially when one doesn’t use tractors. Having been close to Amish communities in the past, they were lucky to find folks who understood working with horses and opened the door to all sorts of related equipment. Once the sled was unhitched it was time to hitch up the bale mover. If you have never had the opportunity to watch someone drive draft horses, I recommend it highly. It is impressive watching man and beast work in unison. The relationship and communication is an experience to see.