What does that word mean to you?
Taking a break from work to rest, study, regroup is quite normal in many societies and even subgroups of our culture.
Taking a sabbatical on a farmstead dairy is a bit more challenging.
You can’t just press pause on living creatures. That’s why dairy people, like us, require unquestionably committed, qualified help (family, staff, interns) or risk exhaust ourselves caring for our herds.
We recognized the problem and have been diligently making attempts to adjust the outcome through several methods, most recently our intern/apprenticeship program.
We have tried all sorts of options. Family, employees, interns… all passionately, energetically pursued… all frustratingly the wrong answers for us.
Our farm is in jeopardy.
We have pushed to our limits, we have no more to give without unreasonable risk to ourselves.
I know this is no surprise to those that have followed our farm.
You may have read the desperation we were feeling when we decided to try an intern program. The failure of our intern program was the proverbial nail in our coffin. We knew it was our ‘last ditch’ effort – and hoped for an ideal outcome, but we were prepared to adjust if it wasn’t. When it was clear we had the wrong solution, we were prepared to walk away from the Little Brown Farm.
Then something happened. Our interns left. Our workload was unexpectedly reduced. Our expenses were markedly reduced. Our production surprisingly increased (goats began giving between 40-60% more milk… within days). Our farm became the most stable it has been since we started our first actions with the county, more than 8 years ago.
We went from being ready and willing to walk away from it all to needing to find a way, an adaptation that would keep this dream alive.
Some plans had already been set in motion. Almost our entire replacement herd (young stock growing up to replace retiring milkers) and our bucks had been sold.
Our milkers are on a schedule to be dried up (no longer producing milk) much sooner this year, to accommodate Tom and my time and physical limitations. Yes, working yourself to death is a sure way to turn a dream into a nightmare.
We will not be in a position to have a full milking lineup for 2015. So, quite simply, we won’t.
Instead, we will be taking a sabbatical. Not a complete sabbatical, a modified version.
We aren’t just taking the 2015 season off of milking, this year we will be stopping our goat cheese production early. When we run out of goat cheese it will be gone.
There will be no more Pyramide or Saratoga Satin for 2014 or 2015. When the Pheta, Caprizella, Chevre and Cajeta run out, it will be gone.
Next year (2015) we will have no goat cheese production. Although we will occasionally be releasing goat cheeses we are aging that have already been made.
Starting this fall we will be producing our cow cheese products (and developing more) on a more regular basis. This includes our Ugly Butter, Cheddar, Dulce de Leche and more!!
Next year we will still be at the farmers market, but with mostly cow dairy products in our lineup.
We will still be maintaining a goat herd (and growing some new replacement girls up for when we return from sabbatical).
But we won’t be having goat babies or baby bottle time on the farm in 2015.
We will be offering more cheesemaking classes. But due to climate control challenges in the classroom it will only be during cooler weather (or until we can afford to make the changes needed to add climate control to the room!).
I will be able to travel and further my education and experience (as much as our budget and Tom’s work schedule will allow). I am SO excited about this. The more I can learn, practice, study, witness, taste, experience, the better cheesemaker I can become for my community when I return.
It isn’t enough for me to make “ethereal” chevre, I want to always be pushing the limits of our facility, my working girls and my skill. There are so many things I want to be doing with our cheese that I can’t just because there isn’t enough time in the day. Can you imagine the possibilities after I have more time and more skills learned at the hands of my amazing mentors and willing educators I haven’t even met yet?
I’m excited and optimistic about what I will be bringing back in 2016.
Some of those benefits will be felt in 2015 too, but only on cow dairy products.
We hope you will be supportive of our change, our sabbatical and keep purchasing our already popular cow dairy products (we need that support to make this plan work – we want this sabbatical to be temporary!).
There will be changes. There are always changes… but change isn’t a bad thing, and adaptation is a wonderful thing.
Fasten your seat belts and come along for the ride… it’s going to be a fun one!! Our new logo tells the tale, we may be a small creamery, but the dreams are limitless.
Thank you individually and collectively (truly, this community is breathtakingly wonderful) for your support as we continue to follow our dreams, hopefully in a manner that will allow us a little more time for some of those dreams to be with our eyes closed!
With a bit of exhaustion, a lot of excitement, tons of gratitude and still an overwhelming to-do list, signing off… for now.
(Don’t forget to keep checking Whidbey Life Magazine where I will be blogging a bit more in all my newfound ‘spare’ time!)