30% of the food we consume here at Chewonki is produced right here at Salt Marsh Farm, including the milk and many of the dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt. We have two milking cows at Salt Marsh Farm, whom are milked twice daily by our lovely farm crew.
A cow starts producing milk after giving birth to her first calf, which typically happens in the springtime. At Salt Marsh Farm, we separate the young calves from their mothers and bottle feed them, otherwise the cows would save their best milk for their offspring. The cows are bred again in the summertime, and milking continues through the winter until a few weeks before the calves are born. At this point, the dairy cows are “dried-off” so that all their nutrients may go to their developing baby. After the calf’s birth, the milking cycle continues. Fresh milk is stored in large metal containers and then taken over to the kitchen where it is pasteurized and bottled. It’s a scarce commodity in the summer when camp is in session, especially the cream at the top! But when Maine Coast Semester is in session, we almost always have an abundance of delicious, fresh milk. Often our kitchen manager, Bill, will transform it into feta cheese, warm chocolate pudding, and other delectable dairy treats.
Maine Coast Semester students rotate through farm chores every two weeks, waking up at dawn to milk cows, feed chickens, collect eggs, etc. The challenge of rising early in the brisk air, before anyone else is awake, to care for our farm animals is often cited as one of the most rewarding experiences at Chewonki. The cows are milked again near the end of the workday, at 4:30 p.m. It is a labor appreciated by the whole Chewonki community, who get to share in the delicious abundance of fresh food and dairy!
We hope you enjoy this short video of Lisa, Hilary and Megan milking our cows with a few boys campers this August!