The Ole Country Store and Bakery in Culpeper VA

When you’ve travelled it a zillion times like I have, Route 29 between Charlottesville and DC is a pretty dull (if beautiful in spots – I’m looking at you, northern Greene County) drive. Next time you make the trek try breaking up the monotony with a stop at The Ole Country Store and Bakery in Culpeper. Not only can you pick up unique roadtrip snacks and random gifts and housewares, but you can stock up on local, pastured, steroid/antibiotic/hormone-free happy meat from Clark’s Old Peach Tree Farm, Summer Creek Farm, and Rider’s Backfield Farm.

Clark's Old Peach Tree Farm

Old Peach Tree Farm raises heritage breed pigs on the grasses, nuts, and berries of pasture and woodland, supplemented with non-GMO feed, and PUMPKINS in the fall, lucky pigs! The Clarks raise the pigs from birth to slaughter, which allows them to ensure a low-stress environment for the animals’ entire lifespan.

Summer Creek Farm

Summer Creek Farm raises lambs and beef cattle on pasture with some supplemental local grains; but upon request Summer Creek will feed only grass to animals for customers preferring completely grass-fed meat. They practice environmental stewardship by protecting waterways from animals and frequently rotating pastures.

Rider's Backfield Farm Beef

Rider’s Backfield Farm raises steers on pasture, with a small daily portion of natural grains during finishing. The pH of the cows’ rumen contents is carefully monitored to ensure no negative effects from the grain. The Riders pride themselves on “manag[ing] their beef gently and humanely and the farm(s) that they maintain.”

Local, pastured, clean meat

Meat case

Bins of meat

The Ole Country Store & Bakery

Support local family-run farms and pick up some pasture-raised, hormone-, steroid-, and antibiotic-free meat, while getting a unique shopping experience and relieving your Route 29 boredom at The Ole Country Store & Bakery.

See also: MooThru ice creamery in Remington VA, for the BEST ice cream, made from local hormone-free milk!

Churn baby churn!

Guest post from Cheenius!

It’s cold, it’s January, everyone just wants to eat healthfully, so Cheenius, Mr. Cheenius, and two intrepid friends got together to… MAKE BUTTER!!! Butter Boy had brought back his grandmother’s butter churn from visiting his family over the holidays, hoping to relive his butter-making experiences from the 1970’s. Why? We find it’s best not to ask sometimes. But, given that three of us were Butter Virgins, it was crucial to have his only slightly creepy guidance. That guy knows butter.

His Butter Babe provided a gallon of non-homogenized heavy cream from Mt. Crawford Creamery [Ed: love their motto!], enabling us to attempt to make sweet cream butter (as opposed to cultured butter, which comes from non-pasteurized cream). Butter Boy kept the cream out of the refrigerator for 24 hours ahead of time so that it would sour a little bit. And then we were ready to start!

Pouring milk into the churn

That’s right!  We crossed the streams!

We decided on 5 minute shifts of churning, which everyone commented wasn’t tiring at all. Although, Cheenius would like to note here that we’re all incredibly fit, truly prime specimens of strength, endurance, and general rippedness. Who can say how the average person would perform under the same conditions? Anyway, it was only 10 minutes before we could see…

Clumpy cream


After another 20-25 minutes there was definitely something buttery happening:

butter in churn

It’s even turning yellow!

And after a total of just 40 minutes we actually had the much-anticipated

Getting buttery


After using a slotted spoon to transfer the yellow miracle to a bowl, Butter Boy and Mr. Cheenius rinsed our butter with ice cold water until the water ran clear.

rinsing the butter

Then we sat down to warm biscuits with the freshest butter Cheenius has ever tasted. We all agreed the flavor was of buttery goodness! Might have benefited from some salt after the rinsing, but otherwise we all felt quite proud of our accomplishment. Yield from one gallon of cream: 2 lbs. 11 oz. of butter, and 3 quarts of buttermilk.

biscuits and butter

And yeah, afterwards we bellied up to the bar and did buttermilk shooters. THAT’S how we roll on a Saturday night.

buttermilk shooters

Thanks, Cheenius! This wacky bunch will be presenting their churning smarts at a Transitions Charlottesville skill share soon. Keep your eye on the Transitions calendar if you’re interested in attending!

NYC Coffee Break

Our friends took us to Jack’s Coffee near their apartment to get fueled up for a day of exploring. What a lovely surprise to be greeted by this sign!

Jack's Stir Brewed Coffee local milk

My delicious latte was made with milk from family farms in the Hudson Valley. Love this quote from the site:

Hudson Valley Fresh is indebted to Jack’s Coffee. Jack’s was the first coffee shop in New York City to serve our milk and promote our mission of high quality and sustainable dairy farming. Jack has shown his conviction by bringing his baristas to the farm and educating his customers. He is passionate about sustainability and continues to be our best advocate by encouraging customers and competitors to use our milk.
– Dr. Sam Simon, President of Hudson Valley Fresh

Jack's Stir Brew Coffee

Kudos to Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee! It really was a delightful latte. Must have been the fresh, local milk. If you’re in NYC and see a Jack’s, go there!

Hay! Goats in Singapore!

There’s a goat farm in tiny, densely populated Singapore! Unfortunately, it’s a hour and a half to get there by public transport, so I can’t visit.

Hay Dairies is a small farm producing goat milk for the local market. The photo gallery shows the goats in a metal-floored enclosure instead of frolicking in pastures, so maybe it’s best that I can’t visit. They do look clean and healthy, though, and the FAQ says no growth hormones or (unnecessary, presumably) antibiotics are administered.

I hope local families and school take advantage of the opportunity to visit the farm. It’s good for urban children to learn where their food comes from.

In closing, a picture of my favorite sheep, Artos. (I don’t have a goat picture handy.) Enjoy!

Zero-grazing=poor man’s factory farming?

While perusing our new issue of WorldArk, the magazine of Heifer International, we stumbled upon a new (to us) concept: zero-grazing. Zero-grazing is primarily used in areas where grazing land is scarce, or where predators are a problem, such as in parts of Africa. Fresh food and water are brought to the livestock, who live in a sheltered enclosure. Processes such as milking are easier to perform, as the animals are kept corralled. Manure is collected from the enclosure and used as fertilizer for growing crops.

Zero-grazing can be helpful to rural farmers who lack grazing lands or have depleted the nutrients from their crop-growing soil, but we don’t like the idea of the animals sometimes being kept indoors their entire life; standing in their manure; and being fed corn, which they are not equipped to process properly. How can the animals stay healthy? What is their quality of life? Is this just factory farming on a small scale?

We could stop here, at the level of the poor African farmer. Zero-grazing systems do help pull some farmers out of extreme poverty by allowing them to produce milk on land that cannot otherwise support livestock; and when a farmer owns only a few animals, he will likely tend them carefully, as losing one would be detrimental to his income. Unfortunately, the term zero-grazing is also applied to  mega factory farming. Perhaps the programs that train rural Africans how to build small dairy businesses should adopt a new term for the farming system they promote, that doesn’t make one think of an industrial feedlot.

Mare’s milk for skin care

HP was recently in Belgium, where we noticed a line of skin care products called New Forest, made from horse milk. We love ponies, and we love natural skin care products, but we were a little taken aback at the combination of the two. Why should we be surprised? How is horse milk different from goat milk, which we have used as part of soaps and lotions before without a second thought? Perhaps it’s because we have a personal attachment to horses on an emotional level, which is different from how we feel about other livestock. (We hadn’t even considered horse milk as a beverage, but after researching we’ve learned that it’s lower in fat and calories than cow’s milk, and can be used to treat metabolic, gastrointestinal, and liver problems.)

Upon returning to the States, we were curious to learn more about the company and their herd of milk mares. Googling didn’t locate the company whose products we had seen in Belgium, but it did lead us to Spa Creek Ranch, located in Canada. Their horse milk production is a byproduct of their sport pony breeding operation: the family breeds New Forest ponies, which are hardy and gentle. The herds live naturally in pastures, on a diet of grass and pesticide-free home-grown hay. When babies are born, the foals get all the dam’s milk for the first 6 weeks, after which some of the milk is redirected for the skin care products. Mares produce enough milk to support two foals, and after the foals start eating grass they require less milk, so there’s plenty to go around. The mares are milked until the foals are weaned at 8 months; it’s an enjoyable process for them as they get attention and are rewarded with treats.

A small farm earns a little extra money by selling a natural product using a substance that was humanely obtained from happy animals: seems like a winning business model!