How long have you been practicing the traditional craft of cheese-making? I started making cheese…
What is the name of your Farm, Ranch, or Homestead?
We have 3 farm businesses: Freund’s Farm, CowPots and Freund’s Farm Market & Bakery
Where are you located?
East Canaan, CT
How and/or when did life as a farmer, rancher or homesteader begin for you?
It starts with Eugene, a boy from the Bronx. He married the farmer’s daughter on Christmas Day, 1948. They started their own dairy farm in 1949. My father and uncle were born on this farm, and I grew up in that same house, sharing a front yard with our dairy barn. I spent a lot of time running away from the notion of being a farmer, I went as far as serving in the Peace Corps in Zambia. Eventually, I came home and gradually started filling various roles here in 2012.
What do you grow and/or raise?
The dairy farm milks 300 cows with 5 robotic milkers. We maintain 500 acres of cropland to grow the forages for our cows and 150 acres of forestland. In the late 1990’s, my dad started experimenting with making a planting pot from our cows’ manure. For over 20 years, we have been turning our dairy’s byproduct (manure) into a value-added product called CowPots. We also have a farm market, bakery and garden center that grows many of the annuals, vegetables and herbs that we incorporate into our own fields using CowPots. Our market fields overflow with tomatoes, sweet corn, popcorn, lots of vegetables and cut flowers during the summer months.
What traditional methods do you use on your farm to grow your crops and/or raise your animals?
A big part of our identity has been being progressive and adopting a lot of the new technologies that have been made available to dairy farms like outfitting each of our cows with rumination collars (similar to a FitBit), a robotic feed pusher, thermostat controlled fans and curtains, solar panels, methane digester, and the list goes on. A lot has changed since my Grandpa and Grandma started this farm, what remains the same is a steadfast commitment to environmental stewardship, animal care and producing high quality, nutrient rich milk for our family and our community to enjoy.
What is one of your favorite farm-infused recipes you wish to share?
This recipe for Corn Casserole was featured in the Cabot Cookbook in 2016. We love this recipe because it includes a variety of dairy products that our dairy cooperative makes as well as sweet corn which we always have on hand whether it’s fresh picked or frozen.
What is at least one farm tradition you uphold?
The health and wellness of our cows has been and will always be our first priority, everyday. Even on holidays, we schedule our family activities after the cows are fed, milked and cared for.
What inspires you to continue a farm lifestyle?
My grandparents were considered hippies, their interest in methane digesters and adoption of conservation farming practices was ahead of their time. Today, these ‘radical ideas’ have become standards for our operation. I’m proud of their legacy and to continue to raise food on the same land as they did 70 years ago. I am excited about the role that our farm and animal agriculture has in mitigating climate change by maintaining open space and arable land to recycling food waste and capturing biogas.
What words of inspiration or uplifting wisdom to you hope to impart on the future generation of farmers, ranchers, beekeepers, and homesteaders?
Grow your network! The relationships we have with farmers, ag service providers, and elected officials are critical to not just our business success but personal wellness and development as well.
There’s value to your story. Consumers want a connection to the products they buy, sharing your story is a really important part of marketing the uniqueness of our farm products.
Don’t let failure and rejection define you. The development and introduction of CowPots received a lot of criticism and negativity. We still confront some naysayers, but there’s a lot more positivity and interest in truly sustainable, biodegradable products.
Where can people find you/your products online?
Wholesale CowPots: https://cowpots.com/cowpots-store?olsPage=products
Smaller quantities of CowPots: https://www.freundsfarmmarket.com/store