Last week I headed up-island to Chilmark to visit the Grey Barn. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the Grey Barn is a stunning plot of land that has been carefully and lovingly designed and built to supply owners and the island with wholesome, organic, meats, cheeses, and milk. While the Grey Barn officially started in March 2010 with 3 cows, since then it has grown to be home to roughly 27 milking cows, 45 pigs, 6 goats, 320 chickens, and a family of ducks, and become a Vineyard establishment.
I drove west along the scenic Edgartown Road up to Chilmark and joined the rest of the group at the Grey Barn farm stand for the tour.
Here we were met by the Farm Manager Michael who started the tour off by showing us where the cows were milked twice a day. The healthy cows at Grey Barn can produce up to 5lbs of milk and milk fat a day.
The milk cows are Dutch Milking Cows, which Michael explained were bred back in the day by the aristocracy to produce milk which was rich in proteins and fat…
Which is perfect for making Grey Barn’s island-famous CHEESE! Which is all made on-property in vats like these…
Grey Barn is all about high quality- quality of their products (milks, cheeses, meats), and the quality of the lives of their animals. They believe that all of this goes into making their final product delicious and good for you- free of the hormones and chemicals that you can find in so many foods today.
This philosophy starts with the soil. After a cow is milked and all the curds and cow milk is gleaned, the unused portion (aka the milk waste) is placed in a tank and used to feed the pigs (because its filled with nutrients, vitamins, and protein) or put into the organic fertilizer that is then spread on the field. This strengthens the grass in the feilds and in turn enriches the cows, goats, and pigs that graze there. In the winter the cows of Grey Barn are fed sprouted barley, hay, and molasses, but NEVER dried grain. This means that the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids is roughly 3:1 (in the healthy, even essential range for humans).
Grazing itself is an art at the Grey Barn. Cows are grazed 24/7, but are never in a single field for more than 12-16 hours. This frequent rotation provides better grazing and stimulation for the cows, and prevents overgrazing, allowing fields to recover and regrow. Each field differs in plant composition- meaning that each field provides different nutrition for the grazing cows.
It is important that cows get enough time to eat and rest. A healthy Grey Barn cow will eat up to 30,000 calories a day and rest for 12 hours a day… which is good because these gals are BIG! Michael explained that resting is actually one of the most important things that a cow can do!
Grey Barn also produces pigs for consumption. While I am a vegetarian, and sometimes the details of the meat industry can be upsetting, I have to say the pigs here looked very happy, healthy, and well looked-after. Michael explained that these pure Berkshire Pigs live outside in expansive, wooded enclosures their entire life until they are ready for slaughter. Pigs, he explained, are actually very clean animals, so the Grey Barn moves their pigs to a new enclosure every few weeks to keep their living environment clean. These little guys looked like they had a pretty good life…
They Grey Barn produces a variety of milks, butter milks, delicious cheeses, and meats, that are used in a variety of restaurnats around the island- including right here at our Lighthouse Grill. If you are interested in taking a farm tour, be sure to check out their website for a schedule of times. And their Grey Barn Farm stand is open every day from 7am to 7pm and works on the honor system. I find myself making a trip over to West Tisbury pretty frequently to pick up some of their delicious Eidolon cheese.
Visit them at: 22 S Rd Chilmark, MA 02535
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