One has to admire the courage of Melissa and Max Blindow, they have invested in a long-term venture. “You seed Benedikt Dairy their vegetables in the spring, harvest and sell in the summer, and are hopefully able to relax for a couple months in the winter. But with a dairy there is an expensive infrastructure of buildings, animals, equipment, and supplies that must be purchased and then, of course, a market must be developed and built on” says Max. Good fortune came their way as they found a welcoming neighborhood wanting to buy their raw milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, and meats by CSA subscription or at the farm stand.
By Helen Brody (April 3, 2014)
One has to admire the courage of Melissa and Max Blindow, they have invested in a long-term venture. “You seed vegetables in the spring, harvest and sell in the summer, and are hopefully able to relax for a couple months in the winter. But with a dairy there is an expensive infrastructure of buildings, animals, equipment, and supplies that must be purchased and then, of course, a market must be developed and built on” says Max. Good fortune came their way as not only did they find a welcoming neighborhood wanting to buy their raw milk, but the nine generation Shirley Farm was willing to offer them a long term lease on part of their conserved hilltop property. With no mortgage payments, a FSA loan, and with the help of Cooperative Extension Dairy Emeritus John Porter, they were able to put all their funds into building a modern dairy facility and to become the first commercial Hillsborough County New Hampshire dairy to start in almost 20 years. The Blindows developed their plans with the guidance and support of advisors at UNH Cooperative Extension, FSA, NRCS, established farmers in their community, and the NHDAMF which regulates the organic certification of Benedikt Dairy’s milk, eggs and yogurt.
They, along with many consumers and nutritionists, believe that raw milk is higher in fat soluble vitamins and other nutrients than the “cooked” pasteurized version of one of nature’s best food. Cows fed on grass, their natural diet of choice, are shown to be healthier than those confined to barns and fed grain. Many people, including those who are lactose intolerant, have reported to Melissa and Max that they have fewer digestive problems than when they consume pasteurized milk. The couple also site evidence that raw milk consumption during childhood may protect against asthma and allergies.
Well aware that they need to assure customers of the safety of their milk, they have no qualms about welcoming guests in to visit their milk room after the morning bottling. Their milking parlor and milk room are pristine with slanted drains leading to an NRCS-designed water filtration system. Their Grade A milking parlor and processing room have smooth and washable walls and up to date stainless steel equipment. The milk is chilled immediately after milking. This assures at least a week’s shelf life, and many of their CSA members report their milk keeping for two or more weeks unopened.
To further assure freshness and to reduce waste, in 2011, the couple established a unique 20 week CSA share paid subscription program. The CSA streamlines milk flow assuring the same amount of milk is sold each day on a set pick up schedule for members. “It helps us guarantee a fresh, even supply of milk, and gives people a direct connection with where and how their food is produced,” says Melissa.
Before moving to the Shirley Farm property, the couple rented other farm properties in order to establish a business history. The Shirley Farm in Goffstown is on land that Piscataqoug Land Conservancy helped to conserve, as part of a larger project, with Natural Resources Conservation Services / USDA, town of Goffstown and Russell Farm & Forest Conservation Foundation. A working agricultural landscape and integration of agriculture in the community is also of interest to Melissa Blindow whose off the farm job is as a New Hampshire Field Agent at Land For Good, a not-for-profit organization that promotes and helps connect available working farm property with new and established farmers in New Hampshire and New England. Melissa, whose grandfather was a dairy farmer, studied ecology and organic farming at Prescott College in Arizona before going to Germany where she worked and met Max on a biodynamic (organic) farm outside of Wuppertal. She also serves on the board of Granite State Graziers
Max, raised in suburban Münster, Germany, began his education by studying math. He quickly became restless and “wanted to do more meaningful work.” He farmed conventionally in New Zealand for a year and then moved back to Germany for an agricultural education where he received an organic farm education on a dairy farm. “Once you figure out a farming system to make the animals happy, then you are farming humanely, and we achieved that in Germany and continue that system here.”
The couple’s plans do not end with raw milk production. They produce yogurt, pastured eggs, and pastured pork. When their herd grows to 18 milking cows, they plan to commission a cheese maker to make cheese. “It would be the essence of these organic pastures, an edible preservation of the diversity and abundance of each grazing season.” says Max.
Clearly, long term planning remains firmly fixed in the Blindow’s future.
Max and Melissa Blindow
97 Shirley Hill Rd.
Retail: (Direct to consumer sales)
Milk, yogurt, eggs, pork
CSA pick up at the farm in Goffstown and at Normanton Farms in Litchfield, NH
Bedford Farmers Market (Tuesdays 3-6pm)