Ronnybrook Farm Dairy: The Old-Fashioned Dairy of the Future?
Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, a member of Bon Appétit’s Farm to Fork program, invites all of its customers to visit the picturesque farm in the heart of the Hudson Valley. Bon Appétit chefs at Wesleyan University in Middleton, CT — who buy milk, yogurt and frozen yogurt from Ronnybrook – and I decided to take them up on that offer. A group of Wesleyan students studying environmental science made the journey to Ancramdale, NY, with us.
It’s no surprise the farm welcomes visitors. Ronnybrook is a quintessential example of what you imagine when buying from a small, local, and owner-operated farm. Unlike the vast majority of large dairies (even those bearing the coveted USDA Organic certification), Ronnybrook grows the cows’ feed themselves, onsite. By doing so, they can control the factors they care most about, like not using pesticides or genetically modified seeds. They minimize waste and costs by using manure as fertilizer whenever possible and rotating crops to promote healthy soil. Their herd of cows, which the Osofsky family has taken care of for almost 70 years, has access to pasture and outdoor exercise every day of the year.
Ronnybrook’s website reads: “Hopelessly out of date, and proud of it.” While in some ways the farm does feel like a throwback to a different time, it is simultaneously cutting edge in its ability to buffer itself from a volatile market by growing its own feed and controlling the processing and packaging of its milk, butter, and yogurt products. In 2010, the farm added a solar thermal system that heats water for the onsite processing, saving the farm an estimated 2,000 gallons of oil annually. While mega-size dairies that make up the majority of the industry are as dependent as ever on fossil fuels, Ronnybrook is decreasing its already small reliance.
Last but not least, by processing everything onsite and delivering only in the Northeast, most Ronnybrook Farm Dairy products move from cow to consumer in less than 24 hours. The students and I were very impressed.
Fresher, less processed food grown with pride without destroying the very natural resources we depend on was definitely our past. The question is: can it also be our future?