We love interacting with other folks who think and live “outside the box.” Although the blog has been rather quiet and this post is way overdue, I want to share last year’s mini-vacation visit to Full Circle Farm in Northern Florida, operated by another family with similar values and mindset. Dennis and Alicia Stoltzfoos and their five young children run the farm, learning and growing together.
Full Circle Farm supplies many folks in northern and central Florida with raw dairy products (for pets only, of course, which is legal in FL) from grass-fed dairy cows and goats. They milk about 20 dairy cows, some full blooded Jerseys and some half milking Devon, as they have a Devon bull. Unlike most dairy cows in our country who are bred and raised for maximum milk production (rather than quality), Stoltzfoos cows eat no grains. Here’s why.
Cows are ruminants, with more than one stomach, and “chew their cud.” Their systems are designed to process grass through various stages of digestion, including fermentation and rechewing. Grains may fatten them up and swell their milk supply, but are not properly digestable. Eating lots of grains and producing massive amounts of milk shortens the cow’s lifespan, and yields far fewer nutrients and healthy fats in their milk. Since “factory” farmers are mostly concerned with quantity rather than quality (that is how they make their living, which is not always easy), they do what makes the most economic sense. But this doesn’t cut it for those more concerned about healthy building blocks for their own bodies and their growing children.
Likewise, our spirits are truly fed and nourished by the Living Word of God, and when we substitute with “cheaper” or more glitzy “food” (TV, internet, other books, etc), we sacrifice the richness, stability, and long life God intends for us spiritually.
Since God didn’t design ruminants to digest grains, the cows at Full Circle Farm are only grass-fed. Every day they are moved to new grass in an area just large enough to provide that day’s grazing needs. This keeps parasites under control and allows grass to grow back before they return to that area. The paddocks are separated with easily moved electric fence. In the winter flax is added to their diet to make up for the lower protein available in grass.
Grass-fed dairy animals produce less milk. In order to turn a profit the milk must have a higher price tag. More folks are waking up to the reality of our poor quality store-bought milk, often after major health issues. They don’t mind the higher price for the sake of their family’s health.
Fats present in pastured milk are totally different from those in store-bought milk. Healthy fats help prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, hormone imbalances, infertility, and a whole host of other issues common in our day. Food industrialization and the loss of small family farms has resulted in largely depleting our diet of these fats. Not only is most milk from grain-fed cows, it is also pasteurized (which kills the enzymes and beneficial bacteria needed for proper digestion, and the many components which naturally fight harmful pathogens) and homogenized (breaking up the fat molecules which become harmful to us). We haven’t even started mentioning the GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals store-bought milk is loaded with.
To regain what is lost we must return to regularly eating healthy fats from our own dairy animals or from conscientious local farmers. Isn’t that similar to regaining spiritual vibrancy and ridding ourselves of apathy and erroneous thinking by seriously getting back to the Word of God, making it a part of our everyday way of living?
Of course if we all stop consuming factory milk products, it will hurt a very large industry that does not appreciate being hurt, hence the demonizing of such endeavors. Folks like the Stoltzfooses have found themselves in very undesirable situations at times, such as being raided for the “crime” of selling pastured raw milk. Fortunately Dennis Stoltzfoos knows the law and his rights, and with the aid of the Lord and a video camera overcame the bullying.
Knowing our enemy’s lies and bluffs, and being prepared with the weapons of spiritual warfare for his attacks can prevent us from being destroyed by him. Being rooted and grounded in the Word of God is our best hope.
The Stoltzfooses are always learning and trying new things to improve their products. Their pastures had no trees and since cows benefit from shade during the heat, they planted many young trees between their paddocks. They are growing velvet beans and iron clay beans to serve as possible supplemental high-protien feed during the winter.
Dennis or one of his children raise broiler chicks and laying hens every spring and fall. Portable hoop barns house these young chickens, placed in paddocks just grazed by the cows. The chickens pick through the fresh manure and eat fly larvae and other “goodies.” As a result, flies don’t bother the cows, and the chickens benefit from the high protein.
Dennis’ daughter milks several dairy goats once a day, so raw goat milk is another product they make available. The goats are also moved from one forage area to another about every week or so. A portable milking barn goes with them. A companion dog (part Great Pyrenees) protects them from predators since they are down the road a ways from the farm. The goats are fed copper for parasite control.
At the end of our visit the unexpected happened. As we prepared to leave, one of their daughters reported a huge limb had just fallen from one of their massive old oak trees, pinning a cow underneath! Using a chain saw and farm jack Dennis and Silver Oak soon had that poor cow rescued. She got up and walked away, seemingly unharmed. But to everyone’s sadness and surprise she died that night in the barn, evidently from undetected internal injuries.
We left Full Circle Farm challenged and inspired. Silver Oak has long dreamed of working at home with the family rather than away from home. Dennis reminded us our children will be grown and gone before we know it, and we’ll soon miss that opportunity. So we pray for wisdom to carry out what God has put in our hearts sooner rather than later.
PS. Click here to see the list of “beyond organic” foods available through Full Circle Farm, and sign up for email notices of when and where in FL they will be delivered regularly.
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