Friday, November 06, 2009

Touring The Family Cow Farm

The intrepid barista candidates of project hampden cross the vast expanses on a milkquest.

Crossing the soon-to-be-frozen tundra of the "west 40" pasturelands, I wondered just how we got here. Sure, the jokers of the group will suggest that we got there by car (minivan, to be accurate), but just how did we get here - visiting Edwin Shank and his collection of over two hundred cattle, several cats and an untold number of chickens?

It wasn't too long ago that I didn't even think about the milk we were using. It was whole or skim. Needed more? A quick call before midnight to the local distributor and a shipment would be delivered the next morning. Short by a gallon? No problem, they'll send a big truck to deliver it tomorrow.

Reflecting back it's amazing how little thought we put into what we consume. Whatever is there and readily available will suffice, especially if it's cheap. Cheap is good. Cheap is easy. Cheap leaves me with a little more cash to buy a new iPod.

Trudging across the uneven terrain with the cold, frigid air blasting across my face, I realized that this is where we belonged. Here, visiting the piko, or source of what we do.

I've starting using a phrase to describe what we do: Simple, but not easy.

Making coffee is simple. Very simple. Simply add hot water to ground coffee, wait a few minutes and et voila! It's done. But doing well and doing it thoughtfully is anything but easy. It's still simple, but it's very, very hard. Hence our trekking the two hours by car, into the Mennonite wildlands of Pennsylvania to visit a few cows chomping on grass in the middle of cold field, surrounded by cow pies.

It's too easy for a "barista" to sit at home and memorize details about the products they use. Grass-fed, hormone free, antibiotic free, organic, free-range, jersey, holstein, guernsey - blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Any monkey can sit around the house reciting spoon-fed information about anything. It's a whole 'nother thing to experience it and see it firsthand. It's how I learned about the products we use and it's how I want to impart our crew with their knowledge.

Having visited the farm, met the farmer, frolicked with the cows, toured the creamery and tasted the milks, I think it gives our crew a depth and understanding greater than merely reciting the label on a box of Horizon Organic Milk.