The trip so far has been a whirlwind. We’ve only been on the road a week and have already covered over 1200 miles, two BBQ dinners and Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Memphis. Thats right, so far, there has been a lot of BBQ-eating (and I have done my part as a martyr, by going along and having my fill of side dishes). Yes. Daniel is a lucky, lucky guy.
We’re at the point now where we’re sitting in a motel in Memphis, exhausted, overwhelmed and completely overjoyed that the internet is working and that there is a desk on which daniel can edit and a reclining couch-type-apparatus on which I can do work until I fall asleep. It’s like a miracle… Or how I imagine Christmas must be. We are happy and tired, and Im really hungry (as I’ve been eating mostly coleslaw for the past few days…see previous paragraph). But mostly, we’re happy.
I know that a lot of this trip is not going to be particularly easy for me — There will be hunting, killing and butchering animals for food along the way (hell, there were a few frogs the other night in a NE Arkansas swamp whose lives I was fighting for). And thats why, as much as I want to make this first blog entry from the road funny and tongue in cheek, I was so incredibly touched by our visit to Radiance Dairy in Fairfield, Iowa…that I’ve got to give it some further mention.
Many farmers don’t see animals as important enough to keep alive once they’re done producing. And to meet someone like Francis Thicke who not only sees the importance, but does something about it gives me a lot of hope.
Radiance Dairy is different. When Francis bought the farm, the previous owners had put a strong emphasis on the care of their cows… and he decided to keep that tradition alive. So, not only do the cows get to roam the hundreds of acres for fresh grass, but they get to live out their lives AFTER they are done producing milk. Which is a very rare thing in the dairy (or even, general farming) world. In a typical farm, the cows and chickens that produce our grocery store milk and eggs are “raised” and held in horrible conditions in CAFOs (confinement barns) for their entire lives… which ends up not being that long. The animals are killed soon after they are no longer able to produce what is deemed “market quantities”. It’s what the farmers say they need to do … as it’s just too expensive to continue paying for food, housing and upkeep of the animal.
But Francis has found a way to make it work. After a cow is around 6-7 years old, they produce much less milk…but still just enough for a family or two. So, when cows are ready to “retire”, Francis sells them to people who are looking for a family cow…which, in most cases, becomes their beloved pet. This way, Radiance Dairy is able to continue making income, families get delicious milk from their backyard (and a new, wonderful animal in their lives), and the cows get to live to be old ladies.
Francis says that there is no other dairy operating like this that he knows of. But there are millions of dairy farms out there… big and small. So I ask you this: if an animal has spent it’s life giving your’s sustenance — why not try (just try) to return the favor? According to Radiance Dairy, it can be done.