This past year at Cricket Creek brought lots of new changes. It seems that each year we are evolving in new ways that previously seemed unimaginable or unfeasible. Thinking back over the year I am wowed by all of the improvements and refinements that we have made to our systems.
On the farm side, this was a year of being inspired by some other farmers in our community, and acting on that inspiration to improve some of our systems and practices. In the spring we started a new mineral feeding program to get better and more bioavailable supplements to our cows. In the spring we started raising some heifer calves on their moms (letting them nurse directly, instead of getting bottle fed). Topher also built a foliar sprayer (following the great design of Sidehill Farm) to apply foliar amendments to our pasture, and did some initial spraying this summer and fall. Last month we welcomed a new bull to our farm, who we are hoping will be the patriarch of many future generations.
In the creamery we developed several new products that we started producing regularly: feta cheese, Hillside cheese, buttermilk, and whey. We also just completed the construction of a second cheese aging room and it is already filling up with cheese that will be sold as Maggies Reserve next summer!
We tried a new farmers market this year in Downtown Pittsfield, and developed new relationships with many restaurants and cheese shops in the area. In our own small farm community, we became part of the CRAFT program which allows our apprentices to regularly visit other farms.
We also saw some major labor transitions this year. Matthew Ball, who had been working with Topher to manage the farm since December 2010 left in April to hike the Appalachian Trail. He is now back on the farm helping out with various special projects. Jamie Ott who has been the baker here for many years is moving on to new endeavors. We have had a rock solid team of apprentices working with us this year on all facets of the farm operation.
Thinking back over the year, all of these various changes and happenings come to mind. However, what really floods my heart and mind is the increased connection that I feel to so many important pieces of this farm and community. Whether it is our connection to the South Williamstown Community Association (we hosted a cheese and wine tasting with them in the spring), or the new chefs in the area, or the love I feel for the animals here on the farm – it all has an important role in my life here at Cricket Creek.
2014 will be a tremendous year as well. We have loads planned with regards to new products, new marketing outlets, farm improvements and renovations, community building, and more. There is still much to be determined as well, but I am excited to see what the year brings! I hope you will all continue to stay connected to the farm and share this year with us. Happy New Year!